Retrospectives: Beginning + Ending

The Trigger

Today, on my way to work, I was listening to an podcast interview with Christopher Avery on the Personal Responsibility Process – an excellent topic! During his interview, he mentioned the concepts of “begin with an ending” and “end with a beginning”. The rest of this post is about me taking these two phrases on a detour in the land of Retrospectives. They help me put my fingers on what I have found to be valuable when we are having our Retrospectives.

Begin With An Ending

The obvious one is that we should begin our Retrospectives with explicit end goals. Yes, I reckon we should apply this principle in all our meetings and not just Retrospectives. And now, for the not so obvious one. During a Retrospective, when it comes to identifying improvement opportunities (the little experiments that we want to try), we should begin our experiments with an explicit end date of the experiment. It goes something like, “starting tomorrow we will try this new approach and we will stop and review how the experiment went in our following Retrospective.” By making the “ending/checkpoint” clear to everyone, it put some comfort in our fear of the experiment running on forever. Therefore we will be more willing to try out new ideas and concepts. It fosters innovations.

End With A Beginning

Most people associate Retrospectives with the end of a project or the end of an iteration. This association is natural. Retrospectives works better if there is something to reflect on; like the last iteration or the last project the team had been through. However, it is important to keep in mind that things should not end at the Retrospective. In fact, the true power of a Retrospective is to use as a foundation to start the next cycle. When an iteration or a project comes to an end, the next one begins. A Retrospective celebrates and kicks off the beginning of the next cycle. It is a platform that pulls together the knowledge we learned from one cycle and applies them in the next. It is a platform for Continuous Improvement (Kaizen).

Try This

So the next time when you are having a Retrospective. Think about these two phrases: “Begin with an ending” and “End with a beginning”. Happy innovating 🙂

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