Retrospective exercises, when teams come together to discuss and discover what went well, what did not, and what lessons can be learned, are extremely powerful and are a fantastic way of building psychological safety. For example, Agile teams usually schedule in a retrospective once every sprint, which is an extremely effective method (if done well) of creating a continuous improvement cycle.
But retrospectives are for more than just technology teams, and they do more than simply facilitate improvement.
Retrospectives should be carried out regularly, in order to build it into a habit – a positive feedback muscle that the team trains and gets a little stronger each time. This is a virtuous cycle, a positive feedback loop of performance.
Of course, you may want to cary out a retrospective (also known as a Root Cause Analysis) for an incident, a failure when something went wrong to not to plan. Maybe the team missed a deadline or a system failed and caused some pain for the customer – a retrospective is really powerful if carried out in a truly blameless fashion. Look for the component causes – since there is never just a single root cause.
Carrying out out blameless retrospectives increases psychological safety on a team, enabling team members to admit mistakes, suggest ideas, or even point out the mistakes of others on the team (again, without assigning blame).
But don’t just carry them out for failures – try running retrospectives for successes too. This way, you can dive into the root causes of success and apply that learning for the next time around. It’s important to not simply minimise the chance of failure, but to maximise the chance of success.
There are some great resources on running different kinds of retrospectives over at the Open Practice Library. And here are loads of fun retrospectives if you’re looking for more engaging ideas, and here’s a good resource for beginners to retrospectives.
These retrospective exercises, and many more, are contained within the psychological safety Action Pack along with more detailed guidance, templates and resources to use with your teams and organisations. Download it now to supercharge your teams.