Looking back to look forward: a retrospective on work in 2016

It’s only human to want to leave the past behind you — especially after the 2016 we had. At work, teams are no different: once they’ve finished a project, they dive headfirst into the next one, without pausing to reflect. As a result, they miss an opportunity to identify hazards to avoid, areas that need improvement, and even successful methods that they should double-down on in the future.

It’s in this spirit that we conducted a retrospective on work in 2016, reviewing major events from startups, Fortune 500’s, and everyone in between to find emerging patterns. It’s our hope that in addition to having a better understanding of the issues affecting the workplace, you’ll also learn how to lead your team through its own retrospective, and develop a plan to make the rest of 2017 your most successful year yet.

As you plan your team’s retrospective, keep three things in mind:

  • Decide what kind of retrospective you want to hold. Our 2016 Retrospective is a variation on a process retrospective (also referred to as a post-mortem). It’s based on a timeline, and focuses on specific incidents or moments that affected the outcome of the work in a positive or negative way. You can also hold a team retrospective, in which your group reflects on its rules, habits, and processes in order to find better ways to work together. Both are great tools for improving your work, but we recommend selecting one or the other to start.
  • Carefully monitor the tone of the retro. Regardless of what kind of retrospective you’re doing, remember that it’s not an excuse for pointing fingers or scapegoating, nor is it an opportunity to single out under-performing team members or complain about other teams you work with. Make an effort to ensure the tone remains civil and most importantly, objective. This is your chance to make work better for everyone on the team, so don’t squander it.
  • Build to scale. If you have a large team (over 100 people), or want to do a retrospective on a process that involved multiple teams, divide and conquer. At Spotify, they assign facilitators to small teams, and focus their retrospectives on topics like “communication” or “deliverables.” Then, the facilitators hold their own meeting in which they share and discuss their findings. This format allows everyone to give input without getting overwhelmed by feedback.

Ready to dive in? Download “Looking Back to Look Forward” now.

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