30 June 2021
Project sum-up as a new beginning
This text is an introduction to a lecture to be given during Design talks Business 2020 where we will take a close look at the issue of retrospective and drawing conclusions from completed projects.
Synergy is one of the most valuable effects of teamwork. However, achieving it is not an easy task and requires proper management of group processes. In the heat of work, it is hard to be constantly attentive to the tasks, oneself and people around, while at the same being subject to continuous self-reflection. Therefore, the completion of a project is a good moment to gather all the insights and carry out the so-called “retro”.
Having experienced the efficiency deficit of retrospective meetings in our team, we wanted to find a solution that would allow us to develop to the fullest extent possible. We started with methods recommended in Agile-based management. However, we are not an IT company but a strategic and design company, so we needed something that would be tailored to our needs and specificity of our work. We developed our own meeting structure which gives us a great basis for building a corporate culture based on strengthening the potential of team members and giving them a sense of freedom – so important in creative work.
“Retro” – a team meeting where the past is analysed by the group in order to empower the team members to act in a more conscious way in the future. The sum-up may concern the closure of the project or a specific time period.
This kind of reflection may be flagged with a low priority, especially in situations where time is running out inexorably. By deciding to do without it, we ultimately manage crises without taking account of the knowledge that has developed inside the organisation or in the team that could, in turn, be the basis for more effective work in the future.
The reason why the whole team is invited to the meeting is to see the project from many perspectives. Individually, we are only able to get our own version of events. The clash of several points of view gives the opportunity to get the full picture of the situation. To understand “retro” – imagine it as a collective puzzle arrangement activity, with each piece being someone’s perspective. When we enter a meeting with such a concept in mind, we are automatically aware that our truth, however important it is, is largely a fragment of a bigger whole. Such thinking reduces the likelihood of potential conflict resulting from openness and sincerity which are the basis of such meetings.
As part of our own research and seeking ways to improve of our team’s work, we tested ways of capturing this issue in a comprehensive manner, but many of them focused only on a certain fragment, disregarding others. It was crucial for us to consider three or actually four aspects that formed the basis for the analysis of the past and gave new opportunities to look at our development, in its organisational and personal dimensions. Development does not always happen only in the area of work organisation. Nor is it always visible in all elements at once. That is why it is worth remembering to take the full picture into account.
1. The Project
“Retro” may be done mainly in the context of evaluating the project, i.e. the completed tasks, mapping the difficulties, indicating the elements that went well. The natural way of thinking in this situation is to analyse the work organisation and ways of managing projects and the effectiveness of the activities performed.
2. The Team
As part of our “retro” talks, we make sure the aspects of mutual relations are duly taken care of in order to constantly foster team spirit and nurture healthy atmosphere. Group process analysis is of particular importance when it comes to improving creative or communication processes. It is an opportunity to think about how the team influences me, what I bring in, what it takes from me, how it changes me and whether this is definitely the right direction of change.
Another important element is to develop your own skills. Retro constitutes a great opportunity to hear about yourself, your work, to set specific goals for working on yourself, and to appreciate one another. Developing self-awareness and broadening self-knowledge allows for building strong self-esteem and, consequently, readiness to take on new challenges. It is worth mentioning here that it is not about “coaching-style” goal-setting activity and leaving the comfort zone. Rather, it consists in working on broadening it and accepting that sometimes the goal is to relax.
4. The Circumstances
During the analysis one cannot forget about the fact that in the course of work various circumstances occur, i.e. changes in assumptions, difficulties resulting from cooperation with the client or private issues of team members. It also allows us to notice that there are different kinds of circumstances accompanying the aforementioned processes – they affect us and change the trajectory of behaviour. It is worthwhile to take them into account in one’s own “retro” and think about how to react to them.
We use such a meeting structure at least once every three months. Usually, our discussions last a few hours, which allows us to improve on different levels and implement subsequent projects with increased efficiency. It is also important to finish the meeting with an action plan. It cannot be just a complaints session followed by no change in our behaviour (as an organisation and as team members); however, the tension-relieving function is extremely important.