Expanding the Retrospective beyond Agile

Why you should use a retro in your personal relationships

Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I am a huge fan of retrospectives. I adore them. They are my favourite part of the SCRUM process. Is it weird that I have a favourite SCRUM ceremony? Maybe, but that's just the way I'm wired.

Why do I love the retro so much? Because, in essence, it allows the team to grow. One of the hallmarks of a high-performing team is the ability for team members to communicate with each other. It allows the team to identify and rectify issues that occurred in the past, to pinpoint gaps that need to be filled and to discuss any concerns that any team members may have. It's also a time for the team to celebrate their successes, feel good about their achievements and to congratulate each other on a job well done. The retro calls for open and honest discussion in a safe environment. Without the retro, the team does not get the opportunity to learn and grow from past mistakes, ultimately leading them to repeat them over and over again throughout the project. The has the potential to lead to project fatigue - team members become exhausted and feel depleted as they are constantly fighting an uphill battle. And what does anyone do whenever they've been worn down enough? They give up.

And this cycle isn't just unique to SCRUM, Agile processes or even Project Management as a discipline. We see this happening all the time in our own personal lives. How many times have relationships (romantic or otherwise) failed due to a lack of, or poor communication? When people feel like their issues or concerns aren't being addressed, or they feel that they are missing something, people tend to give up. Sure, you might work at it for a little while and hope that things get better, but when you feel like you've been fighting for so long without any opportunity for growth, it feels like it's just easier to walk away.

This is where I advocate the retrospective for your personal relationships. Seriously, give it a go. It doesn't necessarily need to be for ALL of your relationships, it may just be for one of them. I personally have a retro with my partner every six months (no, really). Twice a year we sit down and we talk openly and honestly about our highs and lows over the last six month period. We identify what was working well in our relationship, areas that we would like to work on and any goals that we would like to achieve over the next coming six months. There's no finger-pointing, no blaming each other, no screaming or yelling. It is a calm and honest dialogue. We both have the opportunity to listen to each other, and to be heard.

And you know what? It works.

Sure, it may have taken a few goes before he finally stopped leaving his god-damn socks all over the place, but at least we've had the chance to air our grievances and work through them. We work together, we achieve together and we grow, together.

Go try it. Any relationship that matters to you is worth the effort of a retro. It doesn't have to be every six months, have it as often as you would like, or have a larger one once a year. Tailor it to whatever works best for you, the proverbial retro world is your oyster - the point is to have a regular open discussion about the relationship. Give it a go 😀