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Running a Personal Retrospective for 2015

It’s the end of yet another year and a great time to reflect and put your Personal Retrospective hats on. I mention using Personal Retrospectives in my book, “The Retrospective Handbook: A guide for agile teams” because I find them powerful tools to celebrate the past year and to establish new goals for a new year.

This year, instead of simply stepping through questions on paper or on the computer, I decided to use sticky notes and activities I would use with a larger group. In order to keep flow, I wanted to prepare appropriately. This meant I:

  1. Made a plan for the exercises I wanted to run;
  2. Prepared the activities in advance so I could focus on gathering data/generating insights and reflecting instead of thinking about the process;
  3. Had a set of questions prepared in case I got stuck;
  4. Put on some background music – a quick search on YouTube found this spiritual landscape music; and
  5. Had water and coffee ready so I didn’t need to leave the room.

Here are the activities I used this year and that you might find useful for your own Personal Retrospective.

A year in tweets

Using very small stickies to simulate the 140 character limit (I’m guessing I had ~50) trying to generate a number of small tweets about how I felt about 2015.

Personal Retrospective Activity: A year in review

Personal Retrospective Activity: A year in review

Generating a timeline of events

I find the timeline a very powerful way to reflect on the year’s events, and to celebrate their significance. I first brainstormed memorable events before I attempted to nest them into the timeline. I the checked my personal and work calendars, realising that the human memory (or maybe it’s just mine!) is quite bad at remembering the order of events.

I found this blog, my twitter stream and my slideshare page useful sources to remember other significant events.

Personal Retrospective Activity: Timeline

Personal Retrospective Activity: Timeline

Constructing the timeline took the most time of all exercises. Partly because there were lots of significant events for me, and I wanted to appreciate how much had occurred in this year.

4 L’s (Liked, Loved, Lacked, Longed For

I don’t normally use the 4 L’s exercise but figured I would give it a go. It seemed to work well in terms of framing insights but I found I needed to reflect deeper in some of the initial ideas I wrote up. Having an independent coach/facilitator would have been useful but I had to play this role myself.

Personal Retrospective Activity: 4Ls

Personal Retrospective Activity: 4Ls

Goals for 2016

After looking back at the timeline, and reflecting on how the events made me feel and what impact they had, I brainstormed some goals for this year. My focus for this first round was to generate all possible goals I might have, even though these long term goals would not meet the SMART criteria.

Personal Retrospective Activity: Goals (Before Actions)

Personal Retrospective Activity: Goals (Before Actions)

In the second round, I went through each of the different goals, generating some concrete next steps to move me towards each of those goals. My intention is to revisit the goals throughout the year and to take other actions to progress them further. The orange-coloured stickies in the picture below represet these next steps linked to the relevant goals (in green).

Personal Retrospective Activity: Goals (Next Step Actions)

Personal Retrospective Activity: Goals (Next Step Actions)

I also spent the time digitising the outputs into a A3 Personal Retrospective report and have made the template available here if you want to print it instead.

Have you set aside time to reflect on 2015? How did you run your Personal Retrospective? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you liked this post, you might be interested in The Retrospective Handbook: A guide for agile teams, also available in print.

4 Comments

  1. I try to write a kind of personal chronicle, adding few pages once a year, pasting a few event tickets or so on the pages and writing what I did. Nice way both to see how you did the past year, but also how you changed compared to previous years (when you check older entries).

  2. Patrick, what the difference between purposes of stickers with different colors?

  3. A good observation. I mostly focused on events related to my professional life in one colour, and a different colour for more personal ones

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