Project Retrospectives at Digital Agencies

If you work at a digital agency, I bet you love swirling on a client project. There’s just something about unspoken expectations, painful processes, finger pointing, and missed deadlines that keeps us all motivated to continue coming into work every day to do what we love to do. It’s all so awesome that we maintain this paradigm no matter the client, budget, team, requirements, or timeline! #winning

…said no team member EVER. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein (maybe)

For healthier, happier agency teams, you need to inspect and adapt (whether you’re “doing agile” or something else). Agencies can help stop the insanity by adopting retrospectives as part of their project framework.

What’s a retrospective?

Team retrospectives (“retros,” for short) were popularized by agile software development. One of the principles of agile is to reflect on the past in order to adjust the future: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

The Scrum Alliance describes a retro as “…an important mechanism that allows a team to continuously evolve and improve throughout the life of a project.”

How can retrospectives help agencies with client projects?

I first learned about retros while working at a SaaS company. There, product teams held retrospectives after each development sprint (so, every two weeks). Retrospectives are a great opportunity to squash tension, give kudos, and identify process improvements. But retrospectives aren’t just for agile development teams! This kind of meeting can benefit just about any group of people who have to work together. All you need is respect, candor, and a bias towards action.

Retrospectives are a great opportunity to squash tension, give kudos, and identify process improvements.

Retros are a team sport — they facilitate communication and trust-building because team members openly share wins, misses, and wishes. Great retros can help teams figure out:

  • What was painful during a project
  • Why that thing was painful
  • How to remove/reduce that pain for next time
  • Whether the project pains are systemic (e.g., at the client account level or even internally at the organizational level)

Once teams actually reflect on a project and really start to understand why things happened the way they did, they can then identify what to keep and what to change so that they don’t end up repeating the things that they shouldn’t. Culture bonus: Getting everyone on the project team involved in deciding how to move forward encourages accountability and instills a sense of ownership.

Try scheduling a one-hour team retrospective after your next client project. If you end up getting even ONE improvement out of it, then now you’re #winning.

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