Planning a Retrospective Meeting? Read This First


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It’s that time of year when many managers are planning retrospective meetings for the past year. But it isn’t only at year-end when these meetings are held. Any time of year you could be wrapping up a big launch, project, or initiative and you want to reflect on it with your team to determine what worked and what didn’t.

But there are some ways of running retrospective meetings that are more helpful than others. Today, we’re going to hear directly from the people who conduct these meetings to find out what they have to say. 

Tips for Running a Retrospective Meeting

Understand the mentality of participants by using ESVP game

“Ineffective retrospective meetings often give people the impression of shirking each other’s responsibilities and wasting time. Participating in such meetings will inevitably be serious and negative. The ESVP game“ can help the meeting host understand the mentality of the participants, and also reflect the possible problems in the iteration, and then gradually guide the team to face the retrospective with a positive attitude.

*ESVP game:

E: Explorer

S: Shopper

V: Vacationer

P: Prisoner

Different roles represent different attitudes of participation. Explorers are eager to see every detail and seek to get the most benefit from retrospectives; shoppers like to consider different things and are satisfied with new insights; vacationers enjoy retrospectives; and prisoners are trapped in the retrospective and would rather do other things.”

Jesse David Thé, CEO,

Utilize positive reinforcement

“To run retrospective meetings smoothly and effectively, I encourage emphasizing positive reinforcement. Retrospective sessions can become quite hostile at times. For example, people frequently enter a criticizing mentality and focus exclusively on what did not work or did not function well. This can easily leave you with an unpleasant aftertaste when you leave the meeting.

That is why I always incorporate activities that foster positivity and team cohesion into our retrospective meetings. Retros are, after all, fantastic occasions to meet and get to know one another – all the more so given that we’re a remote company.”

Hutch Ashoo, Founder & CEO, Pillar Wealth Management, LLC.

Request active participation

“To ensure that retrospective meetings run smoothly, I recommend making everyone participate actively from the start. With 20+ participants in the conference, anyone can easily hide behind a switched-off camera or silenced microphone. Prevent this from happening by engaging them from the start. To begin, encourage participants to turn on their cameras — it’s always wonderful to see one another’s faces. Second, begin your meeting with an interactive activity that will encourage everyone to participate enthusiastically.”

Robert Bolder, Founder, VPS Server

Utilize meeting tools, icebreakers, and set rules

“Retrospective meetings are crucial to any business organization. Not only are they helpful in course correcting items from projects, but they can also be a way to highlight any skill or training gaps as well as increase team communication by giving them a safe platform to express thoughts. A few of my favorite tips for hosting retrospective meetings are:

  1. Find a tool that enables these meetings. I personally love mural boards – you can switch up the template (make it fun) each time or customize one yourself. Mural boards are often a great way to help organize thoughts and even better that you can use it to help brainstorm ideas for new projects.
  2. Start with an icebreaker game. Retrospectives can be uncomfortable for many people – perhaps if you have newer teammates or ones that are more introverted. Regardless, it’s important to capture everyone’s POV and retrospectives. Kicking off with an icebreaker helps everyone loosen up, relax, and start generating the conversation.
  3. Set rules, regulations, and expectations. It’s no secret that a retrospective can also get intense – finger pointing, although we try not to do it, sometimes creeps in. I like to reiterate my rules and expectations for retrospective meetings. Some of my guidelines are: statements start with I, 3 minutes cap on talking per topic, turn off phones/computers (unless taking notes).”

(Swift Polling offers all of the meeting tools, including polls and Q&As you’ll ever need. Learn more about our solutions for meetings here)

Start by focusing on team values

“In my opinion, a good strategy for successful retrospectives is to start with a discussion of what the team values and how they relate to one another. It helps to have an overall vision for the organization as well, which helps teams understand what success looks like for themselves and their company. By discussing these values in relationship with one another, managers can find common ground across the organization.

As a result, teams come away from these meetings with a shared understanding of where they are going and how they’re going to get there. This is hugely beneficial. It allows them to set specific objectives and build consensus behind shedding bad habits and focusing on positive ones instead.

I also think it’s important for managers to be facilitators rather than leaders during these meetings. By stepping back and allowing their teams to take ownership of the meeting, managers allow the team to bond and observe one another in action.”

Stephen Curry, Chief Executive Officer, CocoSign



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