Run a retrospective

Virtual First | Effectiveness Kit

As one project ends, it can be easy to rush on to the next. But carving out time to reflect on how your project went, and what you might do differently next time, is crucial to growth. Use this exercise to celebrate wins, develop empathy for team members, and quickly learn from mistakes.

45 MINS | VIRTUAL TEAM WORKSHOP

Step 1 (pre-work): Share the retro worksheet

Before your virtual workshop, send the retro worksheet to your team via email or chat. This will help folks who like to read materials in advance feel more prepared. 

Step 2: Warm up the “room”

If your project was challenging, participants might feel nervous to talk about it. As you begin your virtual workshop, emphasize that the purpose is to understand how things went, in a light, positive way. Then invite everyone to answer a warm-up question. We recommend cutting through small talk with questions like “What’s something important to you that your peers might not know about?” Once everyone’s settled in, ask them to agree to a few basic principles:

  • Be honest but respectful and constructive
  • Use “I” statements, not “you” statements (“I wish we’d have had more time” vs. “You should’ve scheduled more time”)
  • Don’t interrupt one another

Step 3: Reflect on your project

Set a timer for eight minutes and have each person write down their answers to the I like/I wish/I wonder questions in a private doc. When time is up, ask everyone to call out their thoughts in a popcorn, rapid-fire style (or, if you prefer, have a facilitator call on people directly). Spend five to seven minutes per category. As people speak, have a notetaker add the answers to a shared retro worksheet (below).
Retro worksheet

I like, I wish, I wonder

Use this worksheet to reflect on what went well, what could’ve gone better, and what new ideas or questions you have. Themes to consider: stakeholders, approval process, timing, and budget.

Step 4: Identify top themes

Once you’ve entered everyone’s answers, ask your team to help bundle them into themes. For example, if you notice lots of points about working together, you could create a collaboration theme. Or if people are saying things felt rushed, you could create a timeline theme. If you notice the same themes repeatedly, set FAST goals as a team and decide effective ways to manage them. Have your notetaker add these themes to your retro worksheet. When you’re done, ask your team to vote on three to five themes they want to follow up on. You can do this by having them (1) show a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or thumbs-meh to their screen camera, or (2) place emoji next to their top 3 choices.

3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Ask yourself “What’s one thing I liked about today?”
  • Next week: Ask your team “What’s one thing we wish could’ve been different about last week?”
  • Quarterly: For longer projects, schedule regular virtual retros