Three Easy Steps to Conduct the Best Retrospectives Ever

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
Three Easy Steps to Conduct the Best Retrospectives Ever
"Reflection gives us opportunities to grow." - Michael Hauge

Imagine this: you’ve worked incredibly hard as a team to reach the finish line. Be it a school project submission, or a debate competition result. You’ve busted your bum and achieved an incredible outcome. You worked hard. Won. Celebrated. Everything is amazing.

This happens all the time for teams that plan effectively and execute their plan well. At the same time across the street, there are ten teams who aren’t effectively achieving their goals. Once the deadline arrives and the final goal or milestone hasn’t been reached, that is a serious time for reflection as a team. What could the team do better?

Analyzing what went well and what didn’t reach your expectations is a critical step to leading any group project or team. In the U.S. Military this is often referred to as an ‘After Action Report.’ In many tech companies or start-ups, this is referred to as a ‘Retrospective.’

Let’s break apart the steps needed to really analyze how we can see what was the cause for our final goal being reached.

In my mind, it comes to three steps: 1) Strategy, 2) Tactics, and 3) Execution.

Step 1: Analyze Strategy

Strategy: Did my Goals Align with Expected Outcomes?

If NO, answer the following questions to determine where to improve the process next time:

  • Was there a sufficient reason why the goal existed in the first place?
  • Were the goals SMART? Did you ignore the reality or facts?
  • Were you capable of accomplishing your goals?
  • Did you have the resources needed to accomplish your goals?
  • Did you have incomplete requirements or information?

It sounds terrible, but many projects or initiatives have been doomed from the beginning! Hopefully that’s not the case for you and your goals aligned with the expected outcomes. Let’s assume the answer here is YES and proceed to Step 2: Analyzing Tactics.

Step 2: Investigate Tactics

Tactics: Was my plan clear and well-formulated?

If NO, answer the following questions to determine where to improve the process next time:

  • Was the plan clear?
  • Did the plan have clear measurements as well as corresponding metrics of success and milestones with dates of when each step would be accomplished by?
  • Were you committed to your plan?
  • Did you reference your plan on a regular (weekly) basis?
  • Were all appropriate risks of projects made clear before the project began?

Examining Tactics requires a nose for details. If you’ve been through these plans exhaustively AND your Strategy was on point, then there may have been a breakdown in the Execution. Let's check out the final Step 3.

Step 3: Reflect on Execution

Execution: Did I follow my plan and also plan for contingencies?

If YES, Goal Achieved! If NO, consider where to adjust the process next time:

Contingency planning

Did you plan for potential obstacles, disruptions, or surprises? Did you remain committed to your plan?


Did you follow the plan step-by-step? Did you keep on track and focus on completing the task? Did everyone in the team remain accountable to the plan?


Did you adjust the plan according to feedback from the team and other external sources? Did you take the feedback seriously and adjust accordingly?


Did the team have necessary incentives to stay on task? Did you award the team for their effort? Did the team have recognition for their efforts?

Team motivation

Did the team remain motivated and engaged? Did the team communicate throughout the process? Did the team communicate their progress and challenges effectively?

Learning and up-skilling

Did the team members increase their skills or knowledge during the project? Did they use the experience to grow and improve their professional development?


So, in summary, after a project's completion or a debate competition result, as a leader you can walk your team through these three steps to reflect on the success. This process will provide invaluable insights into the project’s effectiveness and areas of improvement that can be used in the future to help your team achieve their goals.

Being a leader means taking responsibility for when you aren’t successful too. It may hurt in the moment. This may lead to difficult conversations with your team. In the end, this reflection process is how we grow and how we improve for the future.

We can’t control all the variables in life, but by reflecting and being honest with ourselves, we can plan and execute better than ever before. Good luck and happy planning.

Keep reading to learn more about the Leadership Theory.

Join our Competitions »

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike