A sailboat can be used as a metaphor in a retrospective.

A sailboat can be used as a metaphor in a retrospective.

Most Agile and lean frameworks are built on the idea what is accomplished can be verified by observation or experience. For example, working software is the proof for software development, enhancement or maintenance, rather than a status report or an updated project schedule. The software can be demonstrated, which connects the act of doing with actually delivering value, partially completing the loop in an empirical process. Retrospectives provide a path to incorporate what was learned while working into the next wave of planning and executing. While daily retrospectives provide a very tactical mechanism to ensure that that the right tasks are tackled on a daily basis, a less frequent and more in-depth mechanism is needed to identify and address broader and more strategic issues. Personal Scurmban leverages a weekly retrospective that bookends the weekly cycle that is started by the weekly planning process.

Almost all personal and team productivity frameworks have some sort of periodic review process that is matched to the planning cadence. For example, Scrum suggests that a team should hold a retrospective at the end of every sprint before beginning planning. Other examples include the weekly review in GTD (weekly planning cadence) and similar weekly review in the Franklin-Covey system. Were many of these frameworks roll directly from “retrospecting” into planning, I have found that holding my weekly retrospective on Friday at the end of work day is more effective than waiting until Sunday evening. I have found that holding my weekly retrospective on Friday afternoon/evening ensures that my memories are sharp and that less rationalization has occurred (note the weekly retrospective generally subsumes my daily retrospective on Friday – I like retrospectives, but I am not obsessed). Most of the classic listing types of retrospectives can be leveraged as a framework for the weekly retrospective. When I have had particularly long and trying weeks I have gone as far as drawing a sailboat and anchors in my notebook to generate a list of items either accelerating or decelerating progress during the week. Normally however I typically use a hybrid of the daily process, outlined below:

  1. Review the notes from the daily retrospectives. The notes from the daily retrospective provide a bit of grounding for considering the week. The list of accomplishments, misses and planned improvements provide a reminder of what actually happened to help defeat any possible currency bias (giving more importance to events that happened more recently).
  2. Open or position yourself in front of your Scrumban board. The board is the central tool to control the flow of work during the week.
  3. Adjust any cards (or tasks) to ensure that the current state of progress is reflected. As noted in Daily Retrospectives, this activity is another mechanism to provide grounding before any significant reflection.
  4. Reflect on what you accomplished during the day. Use this step to update the week-to-date accomplishments reviewed in step one.
  5. Reflect on what you committed to accomplish during the week and did not complete (if anything). I exclude anything that I have committed to accomplish over the weekend prior to Sunday’s planning session. While a daily retrospective is focused on identifying the tactical blockers and what can be learned from the experience, the weekly retrospective should take a broader view of what is causing commitment failures. For example, if during the week I had trouble completing my daily 30 minutes of audio editing session I may have to get up a few minutes earlier each day to make time to complete the commitment. On a weekly basis I could look at that issue and decide whether I had over committed or whether were better editing tools could be investigated to reduce the time I need. The weekly focus is generally more strategic and often generates inputs into the weekly planning session.
  6. Close your notebook or turn off you laptop and call it a day!

By stepping up a level from focusing on the events of a specific day, the weekly retrospective provides a platform for looking for system level problems and solutions. Many times solutions that might get you through a day don’t scale up forever (i.e. getting up earlier eventually is the wrong answer). Identifying and solving the bigger conundrums requires looking a week (or a group of weeks) as a whole and applying systems thinking. Weekly retrospectives close the loop begun with the weekly planning process.