The goal of Retrospectives
Retrospectives are the most important opportunity for organizations to learn and get better every OKR cycle. They are carried out in the form of team meetings where the OKR process, including timelines, meeting rhythms, Check-ins and other rules, are discussed.
Retro vs. Review: To be effective, it is important to clearly separate the formats ‘Retrospective’ and ‘Review’. While Retrospectives are a process reflection tool, Reviews evaluate goal achievement. Retrospectives help teams to “sharpen the saw” and enhance processes for the future based on what has been learned in the past. Reviews on the other hand should be used to discuss what has been accomplished and if the goals have been met.
The Retrospective factsheet
- All members of the team
- The team’s OKR Coach
2. Frequency and duration
- Retrospectives should be conducted at the end of every OKR Cycle, before drafting the OKRs for the upcoming cycle
- Depending on the team setup and experience of the team, the duration will vary but should approximately take 30 min – 1h
3. The Retrospective across the organization
- Step 1: Team Retrospective
- Step 2: Retrospective of all Coaches and ideally leadership
- Step 3: Communication of changes
- Step 4: Implementation across teams
Retro of all Coaches: After conducting the team Retrospectives, Coaches of all teams should come together to analyze their acquired insights, come up with solutions and make decisions on what measures should be implemented across all teams and how these should be communicated. Ideally, the leadership team is part of this session
Aspired Outcomes of the Retrospective
Your company should be able to continuously improve your OKR cycle process-wise through the Retrospective. This should transform into increased efficiency and effectiveness of the entire process. Retrospectives, if carried out thoroughly and put into practice, will drive learning and ultimately continuously increase your firm performance.
- Everyone should reflect on the OKR process with the help of the questions: What went well? What needs improvement? What should we start doing?
- Take notes to keep important points in mind for the discussions later on.
- Be sure to have appointed a facilitator responsible for drafting an agenda and leading through the Retro. He/She can be represented by an OKR Coach
- The facilitator should communicate the Retrospective in advance so that everybody has sufficient time to prepare.
Make sure Retrospectives are taken seriously. Doing them late on a Friday afternoon will usually not yield useful results. Just as losing focus and letting the workshop turn into an open feedback or planning session.
The Retrospective - Agenda
Each Retrospective should have a clear agenda. In the case of the Retrospective you should gather facts, thoughts and ideas about the process of the previous cycle. They should be analyzed so that valuable insights for the next cycle can be derived and the process can be enhanced with the help of this awareness. You can use the following “Start-Stop-Continue” framework for your agenda.
1. Welcome and set the stage (5 min)
Welcome everyone to the Retrospective meeting and establish the rules of engagement:
- Embrace a positive mindset and share whatever will help the team to improve.
- Don't make it personal, don't take it personally.
- Listen with an open mind, and remember that everyone's experience is reasonable and can help the team to learn.
- The period we are talking about is the last cycle.
- In opposite to the Review, we will just discuss the process in the previous cycle; in the Review there will be enough room to discuss the goals themselves.
2. Continue: What went well? (10 min)
Start the session on a positive note. Each team member can use green sticky notes to write down what they feel went well in the process of the last cycle (one thought per sticky note). You can also make use of or share an online version of the Retrospective template from this guide.
- What did you like?
- What went really well?
- What would you like to continue?
Group similar or duplicate ideas together as people post their notes on the whiteboard. Discuss your ideas briefly as a team and make sure everyone feels invited to contribute.
3. Stop: What needs improvement? (10 - 15 min)
Like step 2, but using pink or red sticky notes. Remind your team that this is about process improvements and a shared growth mindset – not about individual colleagues.
- What would you like to stop doing?
- What should we avoid?
4. Start: What should we start doing? (10 - 15 min)
Does the team have ideas what should be added to the process, so it will work better for you as a group? Maybe you can build your ideas on step 2 and 3.
- Do you have ideas what to add to the process?
- What should we start doing regarding the process?
5. Next steps (10 - 15 min)
Looking at the notes from steps 2 to 4, decide on which of the suggestions you can improve as a team (on your own) and which you would like to share within the organization. Thank everyone for their involvement and their honesty. Briefly, run through the list of follow-up items and responsibilities.