- Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management.
- Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.
- These are the five stages of a retrospective analysis for effective Agile project management: set the stage, gather the data, generate insights, decide on the next steps, and close the retrospective.
|1. Define the Objective (DO)||Retrospective Analysis begins with clearly defining the objective or purpose of the analysis.||– Define the specific event, project, or period to be analyzed retrospectively. – Identify the goals and objectives of conducting the retrospective analysis. – Establish the scope and boundaries of the analysis.||– Ensures a clear understanding of what the analysis aims to achieve. – Sets the context and expectations for the retrospective process.||– Analyzing the outcomes of a software development project. – Reviewing the performance of a product launch campaign.||Objective Definition Example: Defining the objective to analyze the reasons for project delays.|
|2. Data Collection (DC)||Collect relevant data and information related to the event, project, or period under analysis.||– Gather data through various means such as project documentation, reports, team feedback, and surveys. – Ensure that data collection is systematic and includes all relevant details and timelines. – Preserve evidence and documentation related to the retrospective subject.||– Provides a factual basis for analysis and helps in reconstructing the sequence of events. – Ensures that the analysis is based on accurate and comprehensive information.||– Collecting project documentation and team feedback for a software development retrospective. – Gathering performance data and feedback for a marketing campaign review.||Data Collection Example: Compiling project timelines, task completion records, and team feedback for a project retrospective.|
|3. Analysis and Reflection (AR)||Analyze the collected data and engage in reflection to gain insights into the events or processes.||– Examine the data to identify patterns, trends, and key observations related to the retrospective subject. – Encourage team discussions and reflections on what went well and what could be improved. – Use techniques like “SWOT” analysis to assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.||– Provides insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the analyzed subject. – Facilitates open and constructive discussions among team members.||– Analyzing project performance data to identify areas for improvement. – Reflecting on a sprint cycle to understand team dynamics and productivity.||Analysis and Reflection Example: Identifying trends in customer feedback and team collaboration for a product launch retrospective.|
|4. Identify Key Insights (KI)||Identify and distill key insights, lessons, and takeaways from the retrospective analysis.||– Extract the most significant findings and lessons learned from the analysis. – Highlight actionable insights that can inform future decisions and improvements. – Document best practices and areas for enhancement based on the analysis.||– Captures valuable knowledge and insights gained from the retrospective. – Provides actionable recommendations for continuous improvement.||– Identifying key lessons from a project retrospective that can inform future project management practices. – Documenting best practices to enhance team collaboration based on a sprint retrospective.||Key Insights Example: Extracting insights about product quality issues that impacted customer satisfaction during a review.|
|5. Recommendations (RC)||Develop specific recommendations and action items based on the insights and lessons learned.||– Specify actionable steps and recommendations to address weaknesses and capitalize on strengths. – Assign responsibilities, timelines, and priorities for implementing the recommendations. – Ensure that the recommendations align with the goals and objectives of the retrospective.||– Provides a structured and comprehensive approach to addressing identified areas for improvement. – Facilitates accountability and follow-through on recommended actions.||– Creating a project plan to address project management challenges identified in a retrospective. – Developing strategies to enhance product quality based on customer feedback.||Recommendations Example: Specifying the steps to improve team communication and collaboration following a sprint retrospective.|
|6. Action Plan (AP)||Develop a clear and actionable plan for implementing the recommendations and improvements.||– Outline the steps required to execute each recommendation effectively. – Specify responsible individuals or teams for each action item. – Set timelines, milestones, and key performance indicators for tracking progress.||– Ensures that the recommendations are translated into actionable plans with clear responsibilities. – Provides a roadmap for implementing changes and monitoring their impact.||– Carrying out the steps to enhance project management practices following a project retrospective. – Implementing product quality improvement measures based on customer feedback recommendations.||Action Plan Example: Developing a timeline and assigning responsibilities for implementing communication improvements following a retrospective.|
|7. Implementation (IM)||Execute the action plan as outlined and monitor progress to ensure that corrective actions are carried out effectively.||– Assign responsibilities to individuals or teams for each action item. – Track the progress of implementation and ensure adherence to timelines. – Communicate the status of corrective actions to relevant stakeholders.||– Ensures that the action plan is executed effectively and within specified timelines. – Allows for real-time monitoring and adjustment of actions as needed.||– Carrying out the steps to enhance project management practices following a project retrospective. – Implementing product quality improvement measures based on customer feedback recommendations.||Implementation Example: Rolling out new project management processes and tools based on retrospective recommendations.|
|8. Evaluation (EV)||Assess the effectiveness of the implemented recommendations and improvements in achieving the desired outcomes.||– Measure and evaluate the impact of corrective actions on performance and outcomes. – Use data and performance indicators to assess the effectiveness of implemented changes. – Compare post-implementation results with pre-implementation data to verify improvement.||– Determines whether the implemented changes have been successful in achieving the desired results. – Validates the effectiveness of the recommended actions and their impact on outcomes.||– Assessing whether the new project management processes have improved project delivery. – Evaluating whether product quality has been enhanced based on customer feedback-driven improvements.||Evaluation Example: Comparing team productivity and project delivery timelines before and after implementing recommended changes following a retrospective.|
Understanding retrospective analyses
In business, retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also performed at the end of an iteration in Agile project management.
Retrospective studies were once the domain of the healthcare industry where existing data are studied to identify risk factors for certain diseases.
In more recent times, retrospective analyses have been adopted by project teams to uncover what is working well and what needs improvement.
Retrospective analyses are also a perfect match for Agile project management and, because they are held after each iteration, respect one of the philosophy’s core tenets of continuous improvement.
Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. But whatever the name, they are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.
Retrospectives also have a knack for allowing blockers to surface before they become problematic. Blockers are any factor that impacts the team’s ability to work.
They may describe a work environment that is too loud, slow user-story acceptance, or too many meetings that hinder progress.
How to run a retrospective analysis
David Horowitz is the co-founder and CEO of Retrium, a company that helps clients develop sprint retrospective analyses that are fun, interactive, and fuel continuous improvement.
In an interview with Forbes in March 2022, Horowitz posited that five phases described an effective retrospective.
Phase 1 – Set the stage
To foster an effective meeting, it is important to first check the temperature of the room and ensure that everyone is in a mood conducive to reflection.
Horowitz uses the example of a team of developers who are thrown from deep technical work to introspection in rapid time.
Since they have not had adequate time to adjust, their engagement in the retrospective analysis is low at best.
So how can the facilitator provide mental separation from the previous task and the task at hand?
One way is to move around the room and ask everyone to contribute a one-word emotion that describes how they feel. Collective deep breaths can also work well.
Phase 2 – Gather the data
Otherwise known as setting the terms of reference, gathering the data means clarity is provided on what is being reviewed.
Is it a process, procedure, or specific event? Whatever the case, it is vital there is consensus on the set of facts that will be discussed.
Teams that skip this phase end up failing because they try to fix a problem without a shared mental model of what the problem actually entails.
In Agile projects, this phase may encompass objective data such as the number of stories completed, average cycle time, or velocity.
There is also subjective (soft) data to consider which deals with team motivation, emotions, opinions, and feelings.
Phase 3 – Generate insights
The third phase is characterized by assessing the state of the issue. Note that it is not quite time for problem-solving. Instead, the team should discuss what changed and how the iteration came to be the way it is.
Root cause analyses such as the Fishbone diagram or 5 Whys can be useful to narrow down a list of factors to two or three the team can focus on.
Otherwise, the team can ask themselves if it sees any patterns or surprises in the data and if so, what they signify.
Before moving to the next phase, there must be consensus around the major factors at play.
Phase 4 – Decide on the next steps
In the fourth phase, the team takes what it has learned and incorporates them into a plan to move forward.
Most teams understand this process well because of a natural desire to come up with ideas that enable them to improve.
To a lesser extent, however, some other teams will use this phase as an opportunity to complain and thus fail to identify actions that will lead to beneficial change.
These teams tend to see little value in retrospectives and may cease performing them entirely.
Frameworks such as Stop Start Continue can be used to brainstorm a list of potential actions.
These are subsequently analyzed in the Force Field Analysis to identify the strongest supporting and inhibiting factors for a change item.
Once a list has been assembled, the team can vote on a way forward with impact, effort, and energy mapping.
Phase 5 – Close the retrospective
The fifth and final phase should only last a few minutes. Consider this phase to be a retrospective of the retrospective. What worked? What didn’t? How could the team do better next time? Is there any constructive feedback for the facilitator?
Individual contributions should also be recognized and celebrated at this point.
- Software Development Project:
- Set the Stage: The team assembles in a conference room with post-it notes and markers ready. Everyone shares a word about their current feeling – “optimistic”, “curious”, “overwhelmed”.
- Gather the Data: A review is presented on the number of bugs fixed, features developed, and user feedback received.
- Generate Insights: The team identifies a recurring issue in code integration causing delays. They discuss patterns and realize that clearer documentation might have prevented misunderstandings.
- Decide on the Next Steps: The team decides to allocate time for documentation updates and training sessions on the integration tool.
- Close the Retrospective: Everyone agrees that communication needs improvement. They commit to more frequent check-ins and appreciate the QA team for their diligent testing.
- Restaurant Opening:
- Set the Stage: The restaurant staff gather after the first week of opening. The manager starts by expressing gratitude for everyone’s hard work.
- Gather the Data: Customer feedback cards, sales data, and kitchen performance metrics are shared.
- Generate Insights: The team notices that certain dishes have consistent negative feedback and service was slower during peak hours.
- Decide on the Next Steps: The chef decides to tweak the recipes and the manager schedules additional staff during peak times.
- Close the Retrospective: The team celebrates the successful dishes and events, and the waitstaff is praised for handling challenging customers gracefully.
- Product Launch in Retail:
- Set the Stage: The product team gathers in a calm environment, starting with a brief meditation to ensure focus.
- Gather the Data: Sales figures, customer reviews, and stock levels are presented.
- Generate Insights: The team identifies that while sales were good, restocking issues caused missed opportunities.
- Decide on the Next Steps: A review of the supply chain process is planned, and a meeting with suppliers is set to ensure smoother stock replenishment.
- Close the Retrospective: The marketing team is appreciated for a successful campaign, and the team commits to addressing supply chain hiccups.
- Event Management – Annual Company Conference:
- Set the Stage: The event team meets in a relaxed setting, opening the session with a fun ice-breaker game.
- Gather the Data: Feedback from attendees, budget utilization, and event timeline adherence are discussed.
- Generate Insights: The team observes that while the sessions were well-received, the registration process had bottlenecks causing delays.
- Decide on the Next Steps: Plans to introduce a digital check-in process for next year and a dedicated team to handle on-the-spot queries are finalized.
- Close the Retrospective: The team celebrates the successful sessions and guest speakers, and the logistics team is recognized for handling venue arrangements seamlessly.
- Marketing Campaign for a New Beverage:
- Set the Stage: The marketing team starts with a fun recap video of the campaign’s highlights.
- Gather the Data: Metrics like audience reach, engagement rates, conversion rates, and feedback from influencers are discussed.
- Generate Insights: The team acknowledges that while the online engagement was high, in-store conversions didn’t meet expectations.
- Decide on the Next Steps: Plans to collaborate with retail partners for in-store promotions and sampling events are discussed.
- Close the Retrospective: The creative team is praised for engaging content, and the team commits to aligning online and offline strategies better.
- Retrospective Analyses: Held after a project or Agile iteration, they determine successes and areas for improvement.
- Effective Agile Project Management: Retrospectives help check project team pulse, reflect on work, and plan for the next sprint cycle.
- Five Phases of Retrospective Analysis:
- Set the Stage: Create a conducive atmosphere for reflection by checking the team’s mood and facilitating mental separation from previous tasks.
- Gather the Data: Define the scope of review and establish consensus on the facts to be discussed, including objective and subjective data.
- Generate Insights: Assess the situation, identify patterns, use root cause analyses, and reach a consensus on the major factors at play.
- Decide on the Next Steps: Develop a plan for improvement, brainstorm potential actions, analyze them, and vote on the best way forward.
- Close the Retrospective: Conduct a retrospective of the retrospective, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, recognize individual contributions, and offer constructive feedback.
Connected Analysis Frameworks
Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Business Models, Tech Business Models, Jobs-To-Be Done, Design Thinking, Lean Startup Canvas, Value Chain, Value Proposition Canvas, Balanced Scorecard, Business Model Canvas, SWOT Analysis, Growth Hacking, Bundling, Unbundling, Bootstrapping, Venture Capital, Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Generic Strategies, Porter’s Five Forces, PESTEL Analysis, SWOT, Porter’s Diamond Model, Ansoff, Technology Adoption Curve, TOWS, SOAR, Balanced Scorecard, OKR, Agile Methodology, Value Proposition, VTDF Framework, BCG Matrix, GE McKinsey Matrix, Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.