At work last week my team conducted a ‘retrospective’ – a type of review meeting organized using principles from the software development agile design process. It’s pretty cool how we are using this approach more broadly at my company and especially for our leadership development work. We engaged the full team in a half-day review of our first half 2015 outcomes. The retrospective provided the opportunity to capture accomplishments, to explore how our ways of working were or were not serving us and the organization, and to focus on how to best move forward individually and collectively. It was incredibly powerful.
After outlining the outcomes we’d achieved, we explored:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What will we do going forward? (Plans, actions)
- Where do we need help? (Connections, collaboration)
Seems there are a couple of points of view on the idea of looking back. Some have the philosophy that looking back distracts you from the now, that you can’t start the next chapter if you keep re-reading the last one. There’s truth in that, for sure.
Seems to me that the value of taking a retrospective might be a matter of intention. Why are you looking back? Are you holding on, avoiding change, evaluating in a critical way, or regretting what you weren’t able to accomplish? Or are you opening up, embracing new possibilities, celebrating how far you’ve come, and exploring how to make an even more powerful difference?
The value of the retrospective is when it’s framed in ways that embrace intentions such as:
- Learning and embracing a process of exploration and discovery
- Partnering and collaborating with others to gain insights
- Celebrating and seeing how far you’ve come
- Sharing perspectives and making otherwise unseen connections
- Paying attention to things that matter and appreciating the little things that make a big difference
- Generating ideas and supporting ‘even better ifs’ going forward
- Challenging ourselves and each other
- Being open to change and making adjustments for maximum results
- Fueling up and enriching the path forward
As I’ve thought about the purpose, value and intention around a retrospective, I’ve realized that the concept applies not just to a team exploring their impact together but can also be a valuable way to explore personal impact. So much of leadership development is about self-awareness and the self-discovery that comes from first looking within. Indeed, the great leadership programs I’ve experienced and am aware of are essentially opportunities to reflect – introspection is intentionally part of the experience, often with some that involves looking back at one’s life. When this happens from a safe place of positive intention, amazing things can happen.
What value might you find today by identifying an area of your life or work to explore and asking yourself: What is working and what isn’t? What do I want going forward? Where do I need help? I invite you to share what you do in the way of retrospectives.
* The photo is from my summer vacation – for more photos of my trip to Italy and Helsinki, check out my other blog: Celebrate, Relax, Indulge – Vacation Intentions Fulfilled.