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Retrospectives – Product Manager HQ

Product managers aren’t simply liable for delivery a product. We’re additionally liable for constructing the engine that builds nice merchandise. In different phrases, we construct processes, greatest practices, and cultures round what makes a great product.

To strengthen this engine over time, considered one of our most precious instruments is the retrospective. It allows us to determine what’s good, what’s dangerous, and iterate in the direction of higher and higher merchandise and processes.

On this article, I’ll outline what a retrospective is, the way to conduct one, and the right way to apply it to varied points of product administration.

Let’s dive in!

Definition of Retrospective

The phrase “retrospective” is made up of two roots – retro and spect.

Retro means “backwards”, and spect means “wanting”. Subsequently, a retrospective fairly actually means to look again on some time period or some set of actions.

In fact, if all you’re doing if you look again is to relive the occasions with out crucial considering, you gained’t truly drive enchancment.

An excellent retrospective ought to determine what was good, what was dangerous, and what may be improved.

Actually, there are four core parts to any retrospective, no matter what context you employ it in:

  1. Figuring out what was goodand subsequently what must be stored for subsequent time
  2. Figuring out what was dangerousand subsequently must be mitigated sooner or later
  3. Arising with subsequent steps to take care of the great and to mitigate the dangerous
  4. Confirming whether or not the subsequent steps from the final retrospective have been carried out

Now that we all know the four core parts, let’s speak about find out how to conduct a retrospective.

The right way to Conduct a Retrospective

Historically, retrospectives are carried out on sprints. So, let’s stroll by means of what a dash retrospective seems to be like!

First, you have to determine the appropriate members. When conducting a retrospective, you want the individuals who have been instantly concerned to be a part of the retrospective.

You don’t need to omit important attendees, because you want a number of views within the room to precisely determine all the good and all the dangerous, and also you additionally need individuals who can implement subsequent steps.

However on the flip aspect, you additionally don’t need to contain too many individuals, since that dilutes the influence of every voice within the room.

It’s as much as you to strike the suitable stability. Usually, for dash retrospectives I’ll usher in engineering, design, and QA.

Second, you have to have a approach for everybody to see what you’ll be writing down. I recommend utilizing a whiteboard, or projecting with a pc. You’ll need to log all four parts of the retrospective in a means the place the whole room can see it, so that everybody’s on the identical web page.

Now you’ll be able to kick off your retrospective. Remind everybody which dash you’re reviewing, and show the dash plan in order that attendees have one thing to discuss with.

Appearing as a facilitator, begin the retrospective by asking the group what they thought went nicely during the last dash.

I often discover that attendees are shy to start out. Most individuals aren’t used to claiming credit score or to praising themselves. To interrupt the silence, I’ll praise somebody genuinely and thank them for a selected contribution they made.

Listed here are some concrete examples of “issues that went nicely”:

  • One in every of my teammates helped onboard one other teammate, which meant she ramped up shortly
  • One of many options we shipped final dash made a big impression on a buyer, they usually’re so excited to make use of the product
  • Considered one of our tasks is shifting quicker than deliberate on account of progressive considering from all the workforce

Encourage the group to thank each other, and to say reward for themselves when engaged on troublesome initiatives.

Then, from there, ask the group what they thought went poorly.

Once more, the room will often be quiet – most individuals don’t wish to share dangerous information.

Retrospectives are innocent. It’s important to determine what was dangerous, with out assigning house owners or blame. Remind those that the objective isn’t responsible, however slightly to diagnose and collectively enhance.

If I’ve acquired a silent room, I’ll assist nudge by sharing one thing that I assumed I might have carried out higher.

Listed here are some concrete examples of “issues that went poorly”:

  • One of many JIRA playing cards that I wrote didn’t have sufficient info, which meant that the assignee struggled to know what was wanted
  • We as a workforce failed to satisfy a specific deadline
  • A buyer found a number of preventable high-impact bugs earlier than we did

Now it is best to have two units of data – what was good and what was dangerous.

The staff can now brainstorm concepts for what we will implement for the subsequent dash. Word down every concept, after which ask the group to commit to at least one concept to implement.

Lastly, shut with a assessment of what your final retrospective appeared like. Did the group implement the subsequent steps that got here from the earlier retrospective?

In that case, what have been the outcomes? Ought to the workforce hold doing what was newly carried out?

When you’ve gathered all four parts of the retrospective, compile them right into a centralized doc reminiscent of Confluence or Google Docs, and publish it for the group to have the ability to refer again sooner or later.

Congrats on finishing your first retrospective!

As you run increasingly more retrospectives, you’ll create a virtuous cycle. Since every retrospective builds on prime of earlier ones, your group will get higher at creating new worth from every retrospective.

Making use of Retrospectives

Retrospectives are terribly highly effective as a result of they allows you and your groups to repeatedly develop, experiment, study, and mirror.

However retrospectives aren’t simply restricted to sprints. You possibly can maintain a retrospective on absolutely anything. Listed here are a few areas the place I’ve discovered retrospectives to be extremely beneficial.

Quarterly Planning

Most product organizations have some kind of future-looking planning to assist them determine their roadmap, and to align internally and externally on priorities.

In fact, planning is extremely costly – it takes numerous time from numerous individuals. Much more dangerously, if a plan isn’t sufficiently versatile, it may lock a whole group or a whole firm into a nasty set of actions for for much longer than meant.

Subsequently, it’s essential to conduct retrospectives on quarterly planning, with the next goals:

  • What are the processes that really yield probably the most worth?
  • For processes that don’t yield worth, how can we take away them from our subsequent set of planning?
  • Have been there any key gaps that we missed? How can we keep away from these subsequent time?
  • Did our plan truly assist information us, or did it sluggish us down as an alternative?

Product Launches

Product launches are extremely complicated. In any case, nearly each division must be concerned, starting from gross sales to advertising to help to finance to authorized.

With so many shifting elements, I’ve discovered it helpful to conduct retrospectives on launches as nicely. That approach, we will all determine the right way to launch merchandise extra efficiently with much less inner friction.

When conducting product launch retrospectives, I’m trying to perceive the next questions:

  • What sorts of launch techniques labored rather well for us? What sorts of launch techniques fell flat, and why?
  • Have been all of us on the identical web page on timing, viewers, and worth proposition?
  • Might we now have made handoffs smoother? For instance, how can we be sure that design can present advertising with sufficient lead time to create collateral, and the way can we be sure that engineering can present QA and help with sufficient lead time to organize for the launch and guarantee robustness?

Gained Offers

By diving into our successes, we will discover ways to replicate them with much less effort and with extra consistency.

By conducting retrospectives on gained offers, your staff can study the next:

  • What sorts of pitches labored the most effective?
  • How did we stand out towards the competitors?
  • What did the client care about probably the most, and the way did we handle their ache efficiently?
  • What are the patterns throughout gained offers? How can we double down on these patterns?
  • What sorts of actions didn’t present that a lot worth? Can we get rid of them subsequent time?

Misplaced Offers or Misplaced Clients

By reviewing why you misplaced out on a gross sales deal, or why clients determined to cease utilizing the product, you’ll begin to see patterns and tendencies as properly.

When conducting retrospectives on misplaced offers or misplaced clients, you’ll need to know:

  • Why did we lose the deal to a competitor? Or, why did the client determine to cease utilizing the product?
  • Might we have now seen this drawback coming earlier?
  • How might we now have prevented this loss from occurring, if attainable?
  • What did we attempt to do to retain the client or prospect? Why didn’t our technique succeed?


Within the midst of a disaster, you and your staff don’t have the time to do every thing completely.

That’s why it’s necessary to revisit a disaster proper after you resolve it, so that everybody can put together for the subsequent time. That method, every disaster turns into simpler to deal with over time.

Attempt to get solutions to the next questions via the retrospective:

  • What prompted the disaster? Might we’ve got prevented it?
  • What went rather well? How can we keep these processes in order that future crises are simpler to cope with?
  • What have been the acts of heroism displayed in the course of the disaster? Have been these heroes sufficiently acknowledged? How can we encourage others to additionally step up in occasions of disaster?
  • The place have been there breakdowns in possession or handoff? Can we resolve these upfront now, in order that future crises are much less chaotic?

Day by day Timesheets

Once you monitor your output and time administration each day, you’ll be able to determine which areas of time you spent properly, which areas of time you spent poorly, and learn how to enhance.

I run a day by day retrospective with myself. Throughout that point, I’m trying to study the next:

  • The place was my time greatest spent?
  • The place did I spend my time poorly?
  • What can I do tomorrow to enhance my output?
  • What did I do yesterday that helped make my day as we speak simpler?
  • What burdened me out immediately? How can I mitigate the stress?

The superior factor is that as a result of there are such a lot of working days in a yr, I get to run so many various experiments and potential optimizations!

Skilled Improvement

One of many hardest elements of being a product supervisor is proudly owning your personal skilled improvement.

By commonly wanting again in your progress, and by checking to see whether or not you’re nonetheless on the trail you set for your self, you possibly can forestall operating face-first into quarter-life crises and mid-life crises.

I like to recommend conducting a retrospective in your skilled improvement each quarter.

What you’ll need to reply for your self:

  • What did I obtain, and the way did I obtain it? How can I strengthen my capability to realize?
  • What didn’t I obtain, and why did I miss the mark? Can I mitigate these sooner or later?
  • Did I overestimate or underestimate the progress that I might make? How can I be extra correct in planning out my skilled improvement?
  • Am I getting the mentorship I want? How can I collect extra suggestions about my efficiency, and collect extra steerage in robust or ambiguous conditions?

By asking these trustworthy questions, you’ll discover that your progress will speed up over time.


Retrospectives are a good way to construct up engines that construct higher merchandise over time.

The four core parts of any retrospective are: determine what’s good, determine what’s dangerous, plan subsequent steps, and evaluate beforehand deliberate steps.

You possibly can apply retrospectives to only about each facet of product administration.

By being considerate about all your actions, you and your workforce will develop immensely!


Have ideas that you simply’d wish to contribute round retrospectives? Chat with different product managers around the globe in our PMHQ Group!

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Because the Product Supervisor-in-Residence at Product Supervisor HQ (PMHQ), Clement Kao has revealed 40+ product administration greatest apply articles on the PMHQ web site. Moreover, Clement offers product administration recommendation inside the PMHQ Slack group, which serves 6,300+ members. Clement additionally curates the weekly PMHQ publication, serving extra 22,000+ subscribers.

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