Project Management: The power of a ‘Retrospective’


image001 (2)

I love trains, I love train travel, especially if I get a prized view of the surrey woods as well. The train spells motion, progress, signs of LIFE!

More than that, I love travelling in reverse, i.e. on a seat that gives me a reverse view; a hind sight; a look-back. It seems to give me power. Power over time, power over a forward looking lens and  power over the train’s speed. I feel I have more choice over the views and may linger on them a bit longer.

For a few moments, I’m reminded of the expanse of the universe, the futility of the BAU and the folly of a parochial view. If I am lucky, I might even have a moment of deep understanding or a flash of brilliant insight. The insights are what might save the rest of my day, help resolve a family / work issue or simply bring me a new idea.

In general, look-backs or look-back periods have a much bigger application. They allow us to re-think life insurance contracts, purchase agreements, success or failure of a venture or a project. if we wanted to, we COULD make use of it.

Looking back on a project

In the context of project management, practitioners have instituted ‘Retrospectives’. To some of us, it may seem like another meeting to go, another opportunity to sermonise and have tea. However there may be merit in following the ritual.

Pinnacle projects says that the activities of the retrospective are centred around the question – “How can we work together to improve now, so our next project is demonstrably better?”

It is an opportunity to delve into the performance of the project, understand what went well and what could be improved. Team members contribute their insights and point of view at the discussion.

How to conduct a Retrospective

Retrospectives should include the project teams, including SMEs and IT teams. Stakeholders may be included in some cases. Agendas should be set-up well in advance to allow for preparation. You may also like to circulate a questionnaire prior to the meeting, for improved data collection.

Discussions revolve around performance data/ metrics, timelines, individual perception of things that went well/ could be improved, lessons learnt, ideas to carry forward, what to change and how to improve future projects.

It is also good practice to have flip-charts, white boards, sticky notes, markers etc. in-order to make the discussion more interactive.

image002 (1)

The team should seek to identify tangible and viable improvement ideas. As per the Scrum experts Belinders, ‘One of the most valuable questions that I have experienced in retrospectives is asking why? ‘

  • Why did you do it like this?
  • Why did this (or didn’t this) work for you?
  • Why do you consider something to be important?
  • Why do you feel this way?
  • Why did you decide to work together on this?

For larger projects, it may also help to discuss each measure of project success. These may include: time, cost, value, applicability of solutions identified, end-products amongst others.

Why Retrospectives Are Important

Retrospectives lead to organisational learning, facilitate continuous improvement, lead to better project cost & time estimates, improve performance and team building.

And finally, it allows teams to accrue best practices over the longer-term, without the cost of re-learning from repeat failures.


© Anu Maakan 2016

(Disclaimer: all views published here are the personal views of the author and do not represent those of any organization).






Author: Anu Maakan

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read this page. I'm a change specialist, business blogger and art enthusiast. I'm focussed on topics such as corporate governance, compliance & control, metrics, performance management, human capital, financial regulation, leadership. Find me on twitter @AnuGolden, Or email

2 thoughts on “Project Management: The power of a ‘Retrospective’”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s