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5 Types of Retrospectives for your team

Embrace the Mamba Mentality

The late, great Kobe Bryant coined the term ‘Mamba Mentality.’ He describes it as getting 1% better every day and to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. From an individual, team, or organisational lens, we should be striving to get better. Continuously.


There is no end to our improvement journey. It’s not enough to promote continuous improvement, we have to expect it. And if we expect it, we have to give people the time, space and support to be able to do it. How can we do that?

“The greatest danger a team faces isn’t that it won’t become successful, but that it will, and then cease to improve" -MARK SANBORN

Look back to move forward

Improvements won’t happen instantaneously or overnight. Build in the expectation that continuous improvement is not a nice to have - it’s expected.


Think about what people need to have in order to personally improve: safety to try, time and space to think, support and training to do the work, and action-focused reflections afterwards.


What should we be reflecting on? Everything! These reflections can be on a specific project, task, way of working or to reflect on your productivity. You can use this to reflect on your day, your week, or the lifecycle of a piece of work.


When should you build in retrospectives? Do them continuously! Yes, you should do a large scale retrospective at the end of a piece of work. But you don't have to wait until the end either - run interim retrospectives throughout to see how things are working at the time. You can also build in daily / weekly / ad hoc retrospectives as well.


How long should they be? Well...it depends. I know that's wishy-washy but there is no 'hard-and-fast-rule'. My vote? 🙋 If people have things to add to the conversation - then give them to space to do that!


Who should be involved? Anyone who is affected or involved in the work being done. Be mindful that how these run is dependent on who is involved and what their connections are. Consider:

  • Is everyone comfortable sharing and expressing their opinions in the group?

  • What will everyone need before / during the session to open up?

  • Should there be individual retrospectives that roll up into a team one (with anonymised results)?

  • How will we take the ideas in the retros forward?

Here are five types of retrospectives you can use to reflect individually or as a team.


1. START / STOP / KEEP 🚦

  • 🚦What should we START doing?

  • 🚦What can we STOP doing?

  • 🚦What should we KEEP doing? (no changes)

  • 🚦What should we KEEP doing? (some tweaks)

2. BEFORE / NOW / FUTURE ⬅️⏸️➡️

  • ⬅️What was I doing before? Where was I at?

  • ⏸What am I doing now? Where am I at now?

  • ➡️️What will I do in the future? Where am I heading?

3. THE SAILBOAT


⛵What gave you wind in your sails? what lifted us and added to our journey?

⛵What anchored you down? what held us down or stunted our movement?

⛵What led you to calm and clear waters? what helped us work well together?

⛵What led you into a storm? what hindered us as we worked together?

⛵What rocks threatened to get in the way?

what risks, unknowns and assumptions could have stopped our journey?


⛵ What helped us reach port safely? what tools, processes, systems and people made sure we reached our destination?

⛵Was the compass working? what was guiding us or providing us direction? how did we know where we were going?

⛵Who should have been on the ship that wasn’t? who else should be part of this team?


You can simplify it a bit using this photo:

Simplified sailboat retrospective

4. THINK / FEEL / DO 💭❤️🎬

  • 💭 THINK: What's on my mind? what have I learned? What knowledge have I gained?

  • ❤️FEEL: How am I feeling about the work and the team? How did I feel throughout the project? How did I make others feel when they were working with me?

  • 🎬DO: What actions will I take? Where next from here? What can I do to make the next time better?

5. HAPPY / CONFUSED / SAD 😁🥴😓

  • 😁HAPPY: What made you happy (today? this week? during this project? throughout the year?)

  • 🥴CONFUSED: Is there anything that is confusing you? (what we're doing? why we're doing it? how we're doing it?)

  • 😓 SAD: What's upsetting you or making you sad? What support do you need?

**Bonus: Mindmap it out

The photo next to this is the beginning of the cohort mindmap - a retrospective on a leadership programme. (Of course I forgot to take a photo of the final board 🥴)


Mindmaps start with a central topic - ours was #leadership - then people add words or pictures of topics / actions / notes that connect.


By the end of this the board was full and gave us a striking visual of all the things we worked through. It's a great way to connect topics, ideas and actions visually. We saw themes come through and reminders of actions we should all take. And it breaks up the monotony of post-it notes!


In short:

  • Take time to look back and reflect. It directly connects to the way you move forward.

  • Don't wait until the end to look back; build it in as a regular way of working.

  • Change up how you look back, and who leads the discussions, to keep things lively and let the creative conversations flow.


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