Why Your Company Should Embrace "Retrospective" Meetings

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Silicon Valley and the startup tech world has a new workplace trend -- the "retrospective" meeting. The goal of the meeting is, as the name suggests, to reflect on recent development, identify where progress has been made and where opportunities might have been missed. As opposed to regular standups/townhalls that focus on the present and the future, retrospectives focus on the past -- a practice that can help move the company forward in a more efficient way. 

The benefits of a retrospective meeting are that it helps keep the dialogue open, and creates an on-going open discussion about roadblocks and how best to get through obstacles. This practice can ultimately lead to better communication, more efficient processes and instills a growth mindset. 

How to Make Retrospective Meetings Work 

Allocate an hour a week for these meetings to start, and adjust as you see fit. Ximena Vengoechea, a qualitative researcher at Pinterest, suggests posing the following three questions during these meetings: 

  1. What went well this week? 
  2. What could have been better? 
  3. What should we double down on or try out next week to improve?

When you know a particularly tough or tense conversation will be taking place during your retrospective meeting, assign a facilitator. This person should be a neutral party or team's leader to encourage the conversation while ensuring each attendee is contributing and heard. 

A typical 60-minute retrospective meeting can look something like this: 

  • 15 mins: what went well
  • 15 mins: what could be better
  • 15 mins brainstorm new ideas and ways to improve 
  • 15 mins: decide and agree on actionable items for the coming week

Ensure each person attending the meeting is an active participant. The objective of your retrospective won't be met until you have heard from everyone in the room. And, make sure each person is given an actionable item at the end of the meeting -- a new workflow to experiment with, a different communication tactic to try with a difficult client or a mindset shift when approaching a specific project. 

Then, track that progress. What is working and what isn't? Make each person accountable to ensure they are all on board with a culture of continuous improvement. 

Have you tried retrospective meetings? Tell us about it in the comments below!