Back to all articles

December 1, 2022 - 5 minutes

Retrospectives: What Are They And How to Do Your Own

Retrospectives are part of tech life and they’re a great way to round off the year

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer

What Are Retrospectives?

Typically employed within the realm of product development, a retrospective is a meeting held post-product launch to discuss the development and release process to identify and address any possible problems. We’ve all heard that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it and retrospectives seek to avoid just that; they provide valuable feedback to improve future launches. 

During retrospective meetings, all problems are outlined in front of the entire team with the goal of both solving them and improving processes in general. Many product development processes involve many teams that work separately: retrospectives are unique opportunities to bring the entire team together. 

Benefits of retrospectives:

  • Transparency for all: retrospectives provide the unique opportunity for the entire team to get together and review the product launch from start to finish. What went well? What needs to be improved? Take advantage of the entire team’s presence to make key decisions.

  • Better teamwork: every team member from different departments will be in attendance and this is a great time to not only hear from each member, but also stress the importance of everyone’s role. 

  • Problem solving: improving is close to impossible if the same problems keep happening. Identify issues and try to find the reason behind it; hear the entire team out and make the necessary changes. 

  • Improved processes: here’s another time to flag possible issues: is there a team that’s continuously missing deadlines or running into issues? Work with them to create a process that helps them better submit work. 

  • Reduced conflict: large projects with various teams can mean that there’s a lot of conflicting opinions or perspectives: it’s crucial to have clear expectations about the project’s direction and hear out all team members. 

How do retrospectives work? 

Here are five quick steps to planning an effective retrospective meeting: 

  1. Prepare

Schedule a meeting with the entire team, choosing a date/time that works for everyone. Retrospective meetings can take a bit, so make sure you schedule at least an hour (we recommend more, however!). It also helps to have everyone in the same room together so encourage your team to come into the office that day if possible. To help planning, you can also ask team members to submit their feedback/results beforehand. 

2. Collect data

Now that the meeting is scheduled and you have the results of the product launch, start creating the meeting’s agenda to streamline and organize the meeting. Write down the main points and any questions you may have. Check out the team’s feedback as well and incorporate that feedback into your meeting plan. 

3. Create insights

After hearing the team’s feedback and opinions, create main bullet points about each of the issues addressed. Lay them out clearly so that everyone understands the crucial areas of improvement and ask for any last opinions before starting the problem resolution process. 

4. Problem resolution

With the problems clearly defined, it’s time to propose solutions. If there are lots of areas for improvement, choose a few key areas to focus on in the next sprint. And make sure action items are clearly defined and understood by the entire team.

5. Wrap it up

Both problems and solutions are clear; it’s time to get to work. Answer any last questions and make sure the plan going forward is understood. 

What Is a Personal Retrospective?

Retrospectives don’t have to apply just to product development. If you follow a similar layout for your personal goals, you can find obvious benefits. And as we’re heading into the new year, decide what you want your 2023 to look like and plan a personal retrospective. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Create a space & plan

It can be hard but find an hour or two where your personal retrospective will be your only priority. Try to disconnect and leave devices in another room; true concentration will help you find your areas of improvement. Now create your list of essential points for both the past and upcoming year. Here’s a few suggestions: 

  • Career goals

  • Family/relationships

  • Social life

  • Key values 

  • Overall goals 

Step 2: Review & Prioritize 

For each area listed above, try to summarize both major events over the last year and your goals in each category for 2023. Is there anything you specifically want to accomplish? Or is there an area you know needs improvement? Make a list of both accomplishments during 2022 and goals for 2023; include specific action items. 

Pro tip: use the SMART goal format to help you. For example, if you want to make a career change and learn a new skill, like UX/UI design, set up a realistic plan. Here’s how to plan that out: 

Specific: clearly define your goal: beginning a UX/UI course.

Measurable: find a way to track when you are researching programs, studying, and working towards your goal. 

Achievable: with your current situation, is taking a 9-week break from work realistic? Should you be considering part-time programs

Relevant: revisit why this goal is important to you to help you place the proper importance on it.

Timebound: schedule check-ins or reminders for yourself to see if you’re meeting your goal. If now isn’t the best time for a career change, set a check-in date within a few weeks or months to revisit it in the future. 

Step 3: Come back to your plan

It’s great to plan and set goals but a crucial part of that is checking in with yourself to see if you’re meeting them. Monthly or bi-monthly check-ins can help you track your progress, set new goals, and prioritize what’s truly important to you. And don’t get carried away! Setting realistic goals may not be as exciting in the beginning, but it will help you make progress and work your way up to some truly thrilling goals. 

As the new year approaches, take advantage of the holidays to reflect and start looking ahead. You can do anything you want, so start planning both your professional and personal retrospectives to make 2023 the best year yet. 

Related Articles

Recommended for you

Ready to join?

More than 10,000 career changers and entrepreneurs launched their careers in the tech industry with Ironhack's bootcamps. Start your new career journey, and join the tech revolution!