Hacker Career Advice

Hindsight Is Retrospective

Tomorrow is Friday, which means your weekly retrospective meeting, AKA, Retro is right around the corner.

Every team does Retro differently and opinions about its usefulness vary. But the goal is universal: by reflecting on what you did this week, you can do even better next week.

At Devpost, we’ve experimented with a few different ways to do Retro. One way that worked well for us in the past was a 5 step, all hands Retro. Since our whole team was moving towards a common goal, we involved everyone, not just the devs. Additionally, we asked that everyone arrived prepared. Here’s how we did it:

0. First, we appoint a leader to run Retro. It’s a rotating role and it’s that person’s job to keep us on track.

1. We go around the room and discuss what each of us did this week. This isn’t a deep dive, it’s a quick 1–2 minute summary of what our goals were and the progress we made.

We don’t point fingers or shame people for a lack of progress. We’re just stating the facts and identifying where we need help.

2. Each of us highlights 3 positives and a negative. The positives can be things we’re proud of. Problems we solved. Teammates who helped us out. Team acheivements. Anything really.

Our negative, or delta, is an area where we fell short as a team and an opportunity for improvement. Deltas are not people. We like to write down our deltas on sticky notes and put them on a whiteboard to make them visual.

3. The Retro leader reviews the list of deltas, tabling anything that isn’t actionable. Next, we have a brief discussion about how we could address each issue and then we vote on them. Everyone gets 3 votes, which we can use as we see fit.

4. After the vote, we define an action item and a lead for each of the top 3 deltas. Leads will work toward and present their progress at the next retro.

Note: This process works well if you can hold leads accountable, take meeting minutes, and give them enough time to work on their action items. If you’re running at 120% every day, every week, then this process might not work for you.

These 5 steps helped us make changes in our business, culture, product, and mood. Whether you adapt it for your team’s needs or follow another process, I hope you’ll push yourself to be better every week.


© 2018 Neal Shyam