So, If your retrospectives have been producing lots of ideas for change but no actual change, make that the only topic for your very next retrospective. In that retro, use this four step agenda to get unstuck and start seeing meaningful improvement. It’s easy to customize the details within that agenda to fit your team’s unique situation.
In this episode, Richard and Peter give actionable advice for how to get unstuck when your team’s retrospectives produce lots of good ideas for change but never seem to lead to actual changes getting implemented. They share an agenda for a special retrospective you can do to address that exact challenge.
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Key Ideas of the Week
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Welcome to the Humanizing Work Mailbag, where we answer questions from the Humanizing Work Community!
Today on the show, we’re talking about a common challenge, where teams are good at reviewing things and maybe even proposing changes in a retrospective, but then not so great at implementing those changes. We’ll share how to shift the retrospective to fix that issue so you can get your team back on the regular improvement track.
This particular topic came up in a recent workshop, and it’s a great example of what we love to use the Humanizing Work Show for: to help address the real challenges that are most frustrating for our clients and our audience. So, if you’re feeling stuck on something, really anything work related, let us know about it. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a few details about the situation, and we’ll share how we might think through your challenge right here on the Humanizing Work Show.
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This week’s mailbag question is one that came up in a live workshop when we were talking about retrospectives. A workshop participant said: “Our team is good at inspecting and bad at adapting. What can I do?”
This is a common enough challenge that we thought it was worth a mailbag episode.
If you’re in this situation, it’s time to temporarily stop coming up with new things to change. Instead, focus your retro on recent things you decided and planned to do in previous retros. Follow the ORID process to reflect on those.
ORID—if you haven’t heard us talk about this before—is our favorite framework for structuring a group decision-making meeting like a retrospective. It comes from the book The Art of Focused Conversation.
ORID is an acronym for a sequence of four kinds of questions that you discuss in a particular order.
O stands for Observation. Collect objective data about what happened.
R is for Reflection, where you collect data about individuals’ internal state—their feelings relative to the data.
I is for Interpretation. Discuss what patterns you see in the data and what it might mean.
Finally, D is for Decision. Where you decide together what to do based on your shared interpretation.
We love ORID as a basic retrospective structure. It can go in a lot of different directions, but it always gets the group focusing on shared data before starting to talk about proposals for change.
So, back to this particular situation… If your retros are producing ideas for change but not real change, have an ORID retrospective about that.
So, let’s get into each part of that.
First off, observation. Observation here will mean listing out what you planned to do out of the last several retrospectives and, objectively, without interpretation– without blame, what actually happened to those ideas. Maybe you did nothing. Maybe you started something and ran out of time. Maybe your change got stuck with some issue outside your team, where you didn’t have authority to do anything about it. Whatever it was, capture it in a shared visual space like a whiteboard or Miro board using objective language.
Reflection will mean collecting data about what was, say, frustrating or encouraging. What change did you most hope would stick? How did you feel when it didn’t pan out? Reflection is about individuals’ internal state—so you don’t need to agree here. Just collect the data and make it visible.
Interpretation will mean looking for patterns. What gets in the way of your change ideas being implemented? Were they the wrong ideas? Were they good ideas but with vague plans? Did you allow enough time to work on them? Did they require authority you don’t have on your team? Or whatever the case may be.
Then, for the Decision step, take whatever you discovered in the Interpretation step and use that to make another attempt at a change idea that still seems relevant.
Next retro, go through the same process with whatever change you decided to try from this one.
After a few rounds of this, you’ll understand what it takes to make a change stick in your context. You’ll have inspected and adapted your ability to inspect and adapt, and you’ll be ready to resume regular retros again.
So, if your retrospectives have been producing lots of ideas for change but no actual change, make that the only topic for your very next retrospective. In that retro, use this four-step agenda to get unstuck and start seeing meaningful improvement. It’s easy to customize the details within that agenda to fit your team’s unique situation.
Please like and share this episode if you found it useful, and keep the questions coming! We love digging into tough topics, so send them our way. And thanks for tuning in.