Below are some notes on how to conduct a project retrospective, which helps facilitate continuous process improvement and team-member ownership within a project-heavy organization. I've adapted this from the the idea of a Sprint Retrospective which is used in the Scrum Methedology. This can be used within team and organizations that have not adopted Agile.

This will help you if you’re working on traditional digital projects with teams of 4 to 8 individuals.

The basics

The project retrospective is a meeting that is run by the project manager at which the team discusses the recently-concluded project to determine what could be improved to make the next project more productive.

The retrospective should include three main questions/points for discussion:

  • What went well during the project?
  • What went wrong during the project?
  • What could we do differently to improve?

The project retrospective is an important mechanism that allows a team and individuals on the team to continuously grow and improve.

It is important that everyone, including the team, project manager, and account manager (or principal), get a chance to air their opinions in an open, honest, yet constructive atmosphere. It’s a great way for leaders and managers of the organization to get feedback from the team about the work and progress of project.

Key elements of the project retrospective

  • Process improvements are made at the end of every project. This ensures that the project team is always improving the way it works.
  • The retrospective is a collaborative process among all members, including the team, the project manager, and the account manager (or principal).
  • All team members identify what went well and what could be improved.
  • The team members discuss the process that they are following and give any suggestions for improvement.
  • The team members discuss any other ideas that could improve their productivity.
  • The project manager prioritizes actions and lessons learned based on team direction.
  • The retrospective supports team formation and bonding, particularly as any areas of conflict can be identified and dealt with.
  • The retrospective helps build the team’s sense of ownership and its self-management.

Adapted from:

- Key Elements of the Sprint Retrospective

- Sprint Retrospective

Related reading:

- The Product Owner’s Guide to the Sprint Retrospective (read this if you are the company principal/owner; the “Product Owner” is you in this article)