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    The Value of the Retrospective Meeting
    James Nagy
    / Categories: Consulting, Development

    The Value of the Retrospective Meeting

    The retrospective meeting is one that everyone thinks they want, but often times people don’t actually do.  It’s extremely important though, after you do something big, to pull everyone back together and ask, “What worked well? What needs improvement? What should we never do again?” The difficult part to having a retrospective meeting is doing it in a way that really stresses that the point of the meeting is to grow and improve and not to blame.

    We see different types of retrospective meetings across multiple professional fields. In the healthcare world, they call them M&M – morbidity and mortality. When you’re a resident, every week you have to bring the thing you messed up on and present it so everyone can learn from it. “Look I did wrong and how can we learn from this?” They then rip you apart on it. In the business world, particularly software development, retrospectives are much different.

    You cannot have an effective retrospective meeting if people are afraid to speak up and talk about issues.  We aren’t pointing fingers; we are looking to improve.  You have to approach it in a way that stresses the idea of having people park their buses so no one gets thrown under them. Each person needs to find a constructive way to say, “So and so needs to do a better job.” or “We need help in this department.” If you want to get people to speak up, you have to make it feel like a safe and productive space to do so.

    Find constructive ways to identify problems and issues. There are a variety of approaches to this.  You can use the post it note method, where each person is required to write down three things that need improvement. Then each person will have to read their thoughts aloud. You can have people submit thoughts anonymously. It’s all about continued improvement and it is an extremely important part of the development process. Looking back is a perfect way to find out things that have gone wrong so far and to identify actions for improvement moving forward.

    The three main questions you want reflected on are: What have we done that has worked well for us? What have we done that has not worked out well? What actions can we take moving forward to improve? Once people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, you can generate some great insights.  A good approach is discussing successes and also issues that came up.  Decide what to do by coming up with ways to remedy the issues instead of assigning blame. Create goals and tasks that can help these to not become issues again in the future.

    Retrospective meetings like this should include everyone from IT to QA to marketing to training and everyone in between. The whole business unit has to be present to have a true retrospective. Otherwise, you’re excluding perspectives that may have valuable insights. Every different part of the business unit has a unique perspective on a project. The feedback is important to hear. Outside perspectives are important to consider.

    What do you think the value of a retrospective meeting is? Is it possible to have an effective meeting where people interact without pointing fingers? Any tips to a successful retrospective? Comment below!

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    James Nagy

    James NagyJames Nagy

    Looking for a business consultant, how can I help? As Co-Founder and Managing Partner of J&S Tech Designs, I have three decades of experience and expertise to share with you and help your business, product, or idea thrive.

    Other posts by James Nagy
    Contact author Full biography

    Full biography

    As a strategic leader and entrepreneur, James Nagy has a record of generating growth by leveraging the latest technologies to drive sales, marketing, product development, and profitability. He is known for identifying and capitalizing on market trends, developing effective tactics for implementation, enhancing operating performance, and serving as a trusted advisor and business partner. Skilled at working across operations, James builds strong, cross-functional relationships and communicates complex technical information to diverse internal and external stakeholders.

    A big picture visionary, James identifies and reacts to market trends, providing disruptive strategies that go beyond IT to include sales, marketing, and product portfolio management. Building on his experience as Director of Software Development with premier companies Midas International Corporation and SXC Health Solutions, Inc., James launched two successful consulting companies, Sprocket Websites Inc. and J&S Tech Designs. As the Managing Director, he provides innovative solutions to clients in small- and mid-cap companies.

    When he is not advising other business leaders, James lends his expertise to a variety of organizations. He is a Founding Member & Committee Member of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce; he serves on multiple teams and committees for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce; he is a Founding Member of the Chicago Area DNN User Group, and he serves on the Board of Directors of the New West Symphony. In his free time, James enjoys Sci-Fi, coin collecting, traveling and wine tasting.


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