The Lab |

On Retrospectives


When you’re working at warp speed, taking an hour or two to reflect on projects past can feel like a low priority. At UME, we’ve found that retrospectives are actually mission-critical. That gathering together with colleagues and clients to honestly reflect on the quality of our collaborative relationships and work product is exactly what we’re called to do as leaders and creatives committed to growth. This is especially true when working with remote teams, where creating intentional space for reflection can be critical in creating culture and cultivating generative team dynamics. 

Why Retrospectives Matter

  1. They Build Trust & Strengthen Relationships. Holding feedback sessions builds trust by saying, “I'm listening. I’m  open to your perspective. I want to improve — and I want us to improve.” Feedback can surface hidden issues and give us the chance to course-correct before it’s too late. Investing this kind of time and attention into the relationship strengthens (and sometimes saves) relationships. 
  1. They Reveal Surprising Insights. Feedback gives us all an opportunity to learn from someone else’s experience and perspective. Holding space and seeking new information makes us wiser, and helps us to see the whole system (not just our limited POV). 
  1. They Mature Teams. Retrospectives ask us to be self aware. To know and voice our concerns. To assess and organize feedback in a productive way. To know, name and address problems with curiosity and eventually ease so they don’t bubble up later. With practice, this self-reflection and communication happens more and more in real time — saving everyone time and energy. 
  1. They Helps Us Grow & Improve. Armed with these insights, we know where to focus our energy and imagination in order to become more effective and efficient. And when we as a team know what each other is working on, we can better support each other on our journey and help each other stay accountable. 

Tools For Holding Generative Retrospectives 

Create an intentional space for it. It is important to create an intentional container around when feedback gets delivered. If it is coming from multiple directions at random times it can be overwhelming and not particularly productive. Set aside clear times to schedule a retrospective shortly after the end of a project and name the meeting accordingly so that everyone is on the same page. 

Have a shared document that everyone has access to. This will ensure that all participants are in alignment and helps to make feedback accessible after the session.

Create Psychological Safety. Practice active listening and embrace vulnerability. It is always a two-way conversation and it requires that everyone in the room be willing to have uncomfortable conversations. Make this a space for exploring the potential of what could be.

Start by celebrating what is working well. So many times, we don’t make time to celebrate: we’re on to the next project or problem to solve. But there is also so much to be learned by our successes! Creating structures to pause and acknowledge growth, good work, and values in action is the glue that holds us together. Celebrating helps us all feel seen, appreciated and engaged. 

Talk about areas of improvement. Radical honesty with a dose of empathy can be the most generous thing we can offer our teammates and the project as a whole. Engage a conversation. Ask questions to clarify or understand the reasoning for a specific decision or approach. 

Keep a growth mindset. Remember: it’s not personal. Moments of tension or friction can bring creativity and innovation. Feedback can help us to see new possibilities. Ultimately, it is about helping us to take the work to the next level, together. 

Accountability & Next Steps. Leave the meeting with clear next steps and ownership over what we’ll do differently in the future. Be ready to keep each other accountable and support each other in the process of growth beyond the session.

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