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What You Need to Know about Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews - The Dorset House eBook that Will Change Your Project Outcomes



Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews




Have you ever finished a project and wondered what went well and what went wrong? Have you ever wished you could learn from your successes and failures and apply those lessons to your next project? Have you ever wanted to improve your team's performance and satisfaction by making positive changes in your work environment?




Project Retrospectives: A Handbook For Team Reviews (Dorset House EBooks) Download.zip


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If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be interested in project retrospectives. Project retrospectives are review and improvement sessions that the project team does at the end of a project. They are a way of capturing and sharing the valuable knowledge and experience that each project generates. They are also a way of fostering stronger teams and saving time and money on subsequent efforts.


In this article, we will introduce you to a book that can help you conduct effective and successful retrospectives in your own projects. The book is called Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews, written by Norman L. Kerth, a consultant and speaker with years of experience as a project retrospective facilitator for software organizations. The book is part of the Dorset House eBooks series, which offers practical guidance on software development topics.


The book covers everything you need to know about planning, facilitating, and following up on retrospectives. It provides detailed scenarios, imaginative illustrations, and step-by-step instructions that will guide you through productive, empowering retrospectives of project performance. It also shows you how to overcome the common challenges and pitfalls that may arise during retrospectives, such as fear of retribution, lack of trust, emotional issues, resistance, conflict, boredom, etc.


By reading this book, you will learn how to:



  • Create a special ritual at the end of each project that lets you stop and reflect before proceeding with the next project



  • Use retrospectives as a formal method for preserving and leveraging the valuable lessons learned from every project



  • Engineer a retrospective that suits your specific project context, goals, and needs



  • Sell retrospectives to your managers, clients, and stakeholders



  • Prepare for a retrospective by connecting with managers, mapping the community, collecting data, and readying the team



  • Facilitate a retrospective by creating a safe and trusting environment, designing a retrospective plan with different exercises, and managing the emotional and sensitive issues that may emerge



  • Follow up on a retrospective by documenting and sharing the findings and recommendations, implementing the changes and measuring the results, and celebrating the successes and learning from the failures



  • Improve your skills as a retrospective facilitator and leader



If you are a project manager, a team leader, a team member, or anyone who is involved in software development projects, this book is for you. It will help you improve your project outcomes, your team dynamics, and your personal and professional growth. It will also help you enjoy your work more and have more fun with your team.


How to engineer a retrospective




One of the first steps in conducting a retrospective is to engineer it. Engineering a retrospective means making some choices about who should attend, where and when to hold it, and how long it should be. These choices depend on various factors, such as the size and nature of the project, the availability and preferences of the participants, the budget and resources, etc.


The book offers some guidelines and tips for making these choices. Here are some of them:



  • Who should attend: The ideal attendees are those who have been involved in the project from start to finish, or at least for a significant part of it. They should represent different roles, perspectives, and interests. They should also be willing and able to contribute to the retrospective process. The book suggests inviting between 8 and 12 people, but this number can vary depending on the project and the situation.



  • Where to hold it: The best place to hold a retrospective is somewhere away from the usual work environment, such as a hotel, a conference center, or a retreat facility. This helps create a sense of separation from the daily routine and distractions, and encourages focus and creativity. The book recommends choosing a place that is comfortable, spacious, well-lit, well-ventilated, quiet, and equipped with the necessary amenities, such as chairs, tables, flip charts, markers, etc.



  • When to hold it: The best time to hold a retrospective is as soon as possible after the project is completed or delivered. This ensures that the memories and emotions are still fresh and vivid, and that the participants are still available and interested. The book advises scheduling the retrospective within two weeks of the project end date.



  • How long it should be: The optimal duration of a retrospective depends on the complexity and scope of the project, the number and diversity of the participants, the amount and quality of the data collected, the goals and expectations of the retrospective, etc. The book proposes allocating between one and three days for a retrospective, with each day lasting between six and eight hours.



How to facilitate a retrospective




Another crucial step in conducting a retrospective is to facilitate it. Facilitating a retrospective means leading and guiding the participants through the retrospective process. The facilitator's role is to create a safe and trusting environment, design a retrospective plan with different exercises, and manage the emotional and sensitive issues that may arise.


The book provides many insights and techniques for facilitating retrospectives effectively. Here are some of them:



  • How to create a safe and trusting environment: One of the most important factors for a successful retrospective is to establish an atmosphere of safety and trust among the participants. This allows them to share their honest opinions and feelings without fear of judgment or retaliation. The book introduces a tool called the prime directive, which states: Regardless of what we discover, we must understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand. The facilitator should communicate this principle at the beginning of the retrospective and remind it throughout.



  • How to design a retrospective plan with different exercises: Another key factor for a successful retrospective is to have a clear and structured plan that guides the participants through different stages of reflection and learning. The book suggests following a four-phase model: setting the stage (creating rapport and focus), gathering data (collecting facts and feelings), generating insights (analyzing patterns and causes), deciding what to do (identifying actions and owners). For each phase, the book offers several exercises that can be used or adapted depending on the context and goals.



  • How to manage emotional and sensitive issues: A third essential factor for a successful retrospective is to handle any emotional or sensitive issues that may emerge during the process. These issues can include anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, blame, resentment, conflict, etc. The book advises using empathy, active listening, paraphrasing, reframing, validating, acknowledging, summarizing, etc., to deal with these issues constructively.



How to follow up on a retrospective




The final step in conducting a retrospective is to follow up on it. Following up on a retrospective means documenting and sharing the findings and recommendations, implementing the changes and measuring the results, and celebrating the successes and learning from the failures.


The book gives some advice and examples for following up on retrospectives effectively. Here are some of them:



  • How to document and share the findings and recommendations: One of the outcomes of a retrospective is a list of findings and recommendations that the team agrees on. These should be documented and shared with the relevant stakeholders, such as managers, clients, sponsors, etc. The book suggests using a digital collaboration tool, such as Confluence or Trello, to create a summary of the retrospective that includes the goals, the participants, the data sources, the themes, the actions, and the owners. The book also recommends using a visual format, such as a mind map or a table, to organize and present the information clearly and concisely.



  • How to implement the changes and measure the results: Another outcome of a retrospective is a set of actions that the team commits to implement in order to improve their work processes and practices. These actions should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). The book advises assigning an owner for each action, who is responsible for tracking and reporting on its progress and completion. The book also encourages using metrics and indicators to measure the impact of the changes on the project performance and quality.



  • How to celebrate the successes and learn from the failures: A final outcome of a retrospective is a sense of accomplishment and learning that the team gains from reflecting on their project experience. The book urges celebrating the successes and acknowledging the contributions of each team member. The book also stresses learning from the failures and seeing them as opportunities for improvement rather than sources of blame or shame.



Conclusion




In this article, we have introduced you to Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews, a book that can help you conduct effective and successful retrospectives in your own projects. The book covers everything you need to know about planning, facilitating, and following up on retrospectives. It provides detailed scenarios, imaginative illustrations, and step-by-step instructions that will guide you through productive, empowering retrospectives of project performance. It also shows you how to overcome the common challenges and pitfalls that may arise during retrospectives, such as fear of retribution, lack of trust, emotional issues, resistance, conflict, boredom, etc.


By reading this book, you will learn how to create a special ritual at the end of each project that lets you stop and reflect before proceeding with the next project. You will learn how to use retrospectives as a formal method for preserving and leveraging the valuable lessons learned from every project. You will learn how to engineer a retrospective that suits your specific project context, goals, and needs. You will learn how to sell retrospectives to your managers, clients, and stakeholders. You will learn how to prepare for a retrospective by connecting with managers, mapping the community, collecting data, and readying the team. You will learn how to facilitate a retrospective by creating a safe and trusting environment, designing a retrospective plan with different exercises, and managing the emotional and sensitive issues that may emerge.


The book provides many examples and templates of retrospective exercises that you can use or adapt for your own retrospectives. These exercises are designed to help the team gather data, generate insights, and decide what to do in a creative and collaborative way. Some of the exercises are:



  • Starfish: This exercise helps the team identify what they should start doing, stop doing, keep doing, do more of, and do less of. The facilitator draws a starfish on the board or paper, and labels each arm with one of these categories. The team members write their ideas on sticky notes and place them on the corresponding arm. The facilitator then leads a discussion on each category and helps the team prioritize the actions.



  • Three Little Pigs: This exercise helps the team assess the stability and sustainability of their work processes and practices. The facilitator tells the story of the three little pigs who built their houses with different materials (straw, sticks, and bricks) and faced the big bad wolf. The facilitator then asks the team to think of their project as a house and write down what parts of it are made of straw (weak and fragile), sticks (moderate and unstable), and bricks (strong and solid). The team members write their answers on sticky notes of different colors (yellow for straw, green for sticks, red for bricks) and stick them on the board or paper. The facilitator then leads a discussion on how to improve the weak and moderate parts and maintain the strong parts.



  • Mad Sad Glad: This exercise helps the team express their emotions and feelings about the project. The facilitator draws three columns on the board or paper, and labels them with mad, sad, and glad. The team members write down what made them mad, sad, or glad during the project on sticky notes and place them on the appropriate column. The facilitator then leads a discussion on each emotion and helps the team understand the causes and effects of each one.



  • Lean Coffee: This exercise helps the team generate and prioritize topics for discussion. The facilitator asks the team to write down any topics they want to discuss on sticky notes and place them on a table. The facilitator then asks the team to vote on which topics they want to discuss first by placing dots on them. The facilitator then picks the topic with the most votes and starts a timer for a fixed amount of time (e.g., 5 minutes). The team discusses the topic until the time is up, then votes on whether they want to continue or move on to the next topic. The facilitator repeats this process until all topics are discussed or time runs out.



How to follow up on a retrospective




The final step in conducting a retrospective is to follow up on it. Following up on a retrospective means documenting and sharing the findings and recommendations, implementing the changes and measuring the results, and celebrating the successes and learning from the failures.


The book gives some advice and examples for following up on retrospectives effectively. Here are some of them:



  • How to document and share the findings and recommendations: One of the outcomes of a retrospective is a list of findings and recommendations that the team agrees on. These should be documented and shared with the relevant stakeholders, such as managers, clients, sponsors, etc. The book suggests using a digital collaboration tool, such as Confluence or Trello, to create a summary of the retrospective that includes the goals, the participants, the data sources, the themes, the actions, and the owners. The book also recommends using a visual format, such as a mind map or a table, to organize and present the information clearly and concisely.



  • How to implement the changes and measure the results: Another outcome of a retrospective is a set of actions that the team commits to implement in order to improve their work processes and practices. These actions should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). The book advises assigning an owner for each action, who is responsible for tracking and reporting on its progress and completion. The book also encourages using metrics and indicators to measure the impact of the changes on the project performance and quality.



  • How to celebrate the successes and learn from the failures: A final outcome of a retrospective is a sense of accomplishment and learning that the team gains from reflecting on their project experience. The book urges celebrating the successes and acknowledging the contributions of each team member. The book also stresses learning from the failures and seeing them as opportunities for improvement rather than sources of blame or shame.



FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about retrospectives and the book:



  • What are some examples of retrospective exercises? There are many retrospective exercises that you can use or adapt for your own retrospectives. Some of them are: Starfish, Three Little Pigs, Mad Sad Glad, Lean Coffee, etc. You can find more examples and templates in the book or online.



  • How can I convince my manager or client to support retrospectives? You can convince your manager or client to support retrospectives by showing them the benefits and value of retrospectives for improving project outcomes, team dynamics, and personal and professional growth. You can also share some success stories or testimonials from other teams or organizations that have used retrospectives effectively.



  • How can I deal with resistance or conflict during retrospectives? You can deal with resistance or conflict during retrospectives by using empathy, active listening, paraphrasing, reframing, validating, acknowledging, summarizing, etc., to understand and address the underlying issues and emotions. You can also use the prime directive to remind everyone that they are all doing their best and have a common goal.



  • How can I make retrospectives fun and engaging? You can make retrospectives fun and engaging by using different formats, exercises, games, tools, etc., to stimulate creativity and collaboration. You can also vary the pace, tone, and mood of the retrospectives to keep them interesting and lively.



  • How can I improve my skills as a retrospective facilitator? You can improve your skills as a retrospective facilitator by reading books, articles, blogs, podcasts, etc., on retrospectives and facilitation techniques. You can also attend workshops, courses, webinars, etc., on retrospectives and facilitation skills. You can also practice facilitating retrospectives with different teams and projects and ask for feedback from your peers and mentors.






This is the end of my article on Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews. I hope you enjoyed reading it and learned something new. If you want to learn more about retrospectives and how to conduct them effectively in your own projects, I highly recommend reading this book. It will provide you with valuable insights, tips, examples, templates, scenarios, illustrations, etc., that will help you improve your project outcomes, your team dynamics, and your personal and professional growth.


Thank you for your attention and have a great day! 71b2f0854b


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