Looking back to move forward – weekly retros

3 min read

Project work at Common Good can often be all consuming, complex and fairly intense at times. It usually requires group thinking, as well as specific skill sets. This means our project team’s have to be agile, gel quickly and rely on each other explicitly. Throw in co-locating and external partner collaborations and things can start to lose pace before they’ve even started.

So how do we keep momentum going and moral so high?

One of the ways we do this is through weekly retrospectives. A retro is a focused meeting where project teams take time to get together and reflect on the week passed.

This agile tool allows people to voice individual and team successes. Tackle problems and challenges and brainstorm solutions together in a safe space. These usually take place in a separate room and require post its, rigorous time keeping and a sense of humour!

In my next blog post I will share some of the specific exercises, but below gives you an insight into why it is the secret sauce in building teams and ensuring the success of the work we do. Broadly we use retro’s for three reasons.

1. It’s a chance to give feedback

This is feedback regarding the progress of the team as a whole, not individual feedback. Individual feedback is really important, however I strongly believe there is another time and place for this. Feeling vulnerable or embarrassed in front of your peers does nothing for the psychological safety of the group. Individual feedback should be done on a 1-2-1 basis and with someone to facilitate if necessary.

Team feedback however, allows the group to celebrate successes and learn collectively. Learnings are captured and then shared together with other teams.

2. Solve challenges within the project

There is always something, whether that’s a change in the project direction, client demands, new team members, external stakeholders or just simply life getting in the way. There are always things to tackle, that cause stress and slow the project down. By solving problems and voicing intentions for the week ahead, usually means goals are completed and momentum continued.

3. Share together

At the end of the week a retro gives space to share any important information about the project or client.

Keeping everyone informed can be a nightmare! Particularly with multiple channels and stakeholders. Retros solve that problem and give the product manager a clear overview of where the focus of their team is – sometimes resulting in slight or even severe adjustments.

Why are they so effective?

On one level it’s simply just a consistent time each week that the team can be together. We are lucky to work with clients from all over the world, so getting time together is really important.

Sometimes you just need to see a friendly face!

As the saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ Challenges that may arise in the week can be shared with the wider group and then dealt with collectively. Taking the pressure off the individual and utilising the many brains in the room to come up with solutions. The retro’s provide reassurance that nothing is insurmountable and help the team bond very quickly.

Finally there is a facilitator. This role is designed to be neutral and accommodate the varying personalities and energy levels within the team. The facilitator has to keep the conversation moving without getting lost in the details, as well as gently nudging for greater understanding. It’s important to make sure all voices are heard and look out for the overall well being of the team.

By getting the team to think creatively, laugh out loud and generally acting as the voice of positivity the facilitator can help shift things into a new more positive direction.

If you would like to understand a bit more about some of the people processes we use at Common Good, please drop me an email at lu@common-good.co. I’m always interested in understanding how other design studio’s coach their teams too, if you’d be happy to share please do get in touch and let’s have coffee!