Retrospective review – a simple and powerful tool for project teams. 

 March 2, 2023

Written by Yemisi Iyilade, Project Management Consultant, Leadership Coach, Scientist & Innovation Expert.

The retrospective review serves as an invaluable source of growth and development for teams, allowing them to identify areas where they can improve. Its simplicity is one of its most powerful features – It is now simpler than ever to capture and act upon feedback, with the right questions.

When working on projects there is always a time to take stock of what have been accomplished and identify areas in which progress may be necessary. Retrospective review is necessary to evaluate the status of activities and deliverables completed.

Regardless of the methodology and approach taken, a project manager relies heavily upon reviews for essential information that can be used to improve results in subsequent projects.

This article will provide you with the fundamentals of retrospective review, including the types available, how to go through the process effectively and efficiently, as well as why looking back can help propel your projects forward.

What is Retrospective Review?

A retrospective review is a process used to evaluate past performance and identify areas of improvement. It can involve analyzing activities and outcomes, discussing lessons learned, and revisiting decisions.

This type of review is essential because it helps businesses better understand their successes, failures, and areas where progress needs to be made. The retrospective review process can be applied to any area of an organization, from operations and customer service to marketing and product development.

Ultimately, the aim is to make sure that teams are able to continuously improve their performance. During this process, feedback should be sought from stakeholders who can provide insight into what worked well in the past and what could have been done better.

5 Ways Retrospective Review Can Help

Retrospective reviews can provide valuable insight into what worked for an organization or team and what didn’t. Through the review process, businesses can better understand their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to make more informed decisions for the future.

1) Reviews can provide valuable feedback on different processes, projects, or initiatives that have been undertaken in the past. This feedback can help identify areas of success and areas where improvement is needed.

2) Retrospectives also provide an opportunity to celebrate successes, recognize best practices, and offer praise for a job well done. By taking this time to remember and recognize successes, teams can build morale and create a positive work environment.

3) Retrospective reviews are also an effective way to plan for future endeavors. By looking at past experiences and successes, teams can better prepare for upcoming projects or initiatives. Additionally, they can use the insights gained from retrospective reviews to develop better processes and procedures going forward.

4) They also offer an invaluable tool to help teams and organizations become better equipped to handle the challenges of the future. By taking time to review past experiences, successes, and failures, teams can identify areas of improvement while also celebrating their accomplishments. This knowledge can help ensure that they are prepared for any upcoming projects or initiatives they may face.

5) Finally, retrospective reviews can provide an avenue for open communication and collaboration between team members or different departments within a company. Through the review process, teams can learn to work together more effectively, creating a stronger sense of unity and camaraderie across the organization. This improved communication can also lead to better problem-solving, stronger decision-making abilities, and a more positive work environment.

By considering past experiences and taking the time to reflect on them during retrospective reviews

How to conduct a retrospective review

A retrospective review allows a project team to look back on their work and identify areas for improvement. It should be conducted after a project’s completion to identify which processes worked well, what could have been done differently, and how similar projects can be improved in the future.

The following are some ideas to consider when conducting a retrospective review.

  1. Team members need a safe space for honest conversations. Create an environment of continuous improvement, by promoting a culture of learning from feedback.
  2. Gather feedback from team members and stakeholders.
  3. Compile data on the project’s progress, such as timeline, budget, and milestones achieved. Analyze the data to identify areas of success or failure.
  4. Discuss the results with team members and stakeholders. Identify key takeaways and formulate actionable items for improvement.
  5. Summarize the retrospective meeting with key points discussed and action items identified. Assess whether the feedback is actionable and how it can be implemented in upcoming projects.
  6. Document the findings for internal review and archiving. Make team members accountable for implementing improvements.
  7. Re-evaluate the process after each project and adjust as necessary. Capture project learnings to share with other teams across the organization to put the actionable items into practice.
  8. Thank everyone involved for their contributions. Celebrate successes and learn from mistakes.
  9. Finally, reflect on the retrospective review process and note any changes or improvements in the future.

Types of Retrospective review:

There are several different types of retrospective reviews. The most common include:

1. Analytical Review:

An analytical review is a systematic approach to analyzing performance and identifying areas of improvement. This type of review involves breaking down activities, tasks, and outcomes into measurable components that can be objectively evaluated.

2. Reflection Review:

A reflection review allows team members to reflect on their performance and identify areas of improvement from a more subjective standpoint. This type of review is usually based on conversations between team members, allowing them to share personal insights into what worked and what didn’t.

3. Learning Review:

A learning review focuses on uncovering lessons learned and identifying areas for growth. This type of review is typically used to help teams understand their mistakes, reflect on what went wrong, and identify relevant takeaways that can be applied in the future.

Retrospective Review process:

The retrospective review process typically follows these steps:

1. Define the Goals:

The first step is to define clear goals and objectives for the review. This will help ensure that everyone has a shared understanding of what is being reviewed and why.

2. Gather Data:

The next step is to gather data about past performance. This can include information about activities, tasks, outcomes, and decisions.

3. Analyze Data:

The team then reviews the data and identifies any patterns or trends in performance. This helps them understand what worked and didn’t work to make better decisions in the future.

4. Identify Areas of Improvement:

After reviewing the data, the team identifies areas of improvement and makes recommendations for future action.

5. Implement Changes:

The final step is to implement any changes that have been identified to improve performance in the future.

Benefits of Retrospective review:

The benefits of retrospective review are far-reaching – it can increase productivity, foster collaboration among team members, develop a problem-solving skill set as well as provide a platform for open communication between all stakeholders involved! Some of the benefits are listed below.

1. Improved Performance:

Retrospective reviews help teams understand their successes and failures and identify areas for improvement to work more effectively in the future.

2. Increased Understanding:

Through the review process, team members better understand their strengths and weaknesses, which can help them work more effectively.

3. Improved Communication:

Retrospective reviews can help improve team members’ communication and create a sense of shared purpose.

4. Enhanced Learning:

By reflecting on mistakes, team members can learn from them and ensure that similar errors are not repeated.

5. Increased Efficiency:

By reviewing past performance, teams can become more efficient and productive in the future. This can lead to better results and improved customer satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

A retrospective review is an incredibly powerful and straightforward tool for teams to utilize. It enables them to look back at their work, assess what worked well, pinpoint areas of improvement, and make the necessary changes. Through the review process, teams can better communicate, learn from their mistakes, and become more efficient in the future.

Considering past successes and failures can provide helpful insight into what processes needs to be changed or reviewed in the future. This process will also help identify areas where improvement may be necessary.

This could include projects that fell short of expectations or initiatives that failed to reach their desired outcome. It’s essential to look at these situations objectively and identify any patterns in the data that may indicate why specific results were not achieved.

Looking back on what went wrong and proactively fixing these issues will help businesses build strategies for the future, avoid similar pitfalls, and attain their goals.


Q: What are the common mistakes in retrospective review?

A: The most common mistakes in the retrospective review include skimping on the data-gathering stage, failing to define clear goals for the study, and needing more time to determine the data and draw meaningful conclusions.

Q: Why is there a need for a retrospective review?

A: Retrospective reviews help teams better understand their successes and failures, identify areas for improvement, improve communication between team members, and enhance learning. Retrospective review means the utilization review of a control group or two groups in a business day.

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Yemisi Iyilade

Yemisi Iyilade is a Project Management Professional, PMP and Maxwell Leadership Coach and Trainer. She has worked in the environmental, nonprofit, and technology industries, developing new products and services, providing leadership, and facilitating meaningful engagement with stakeholders. Yemisi is driven by a mission to empower young people, women, and immigrant professionals through content delivery, coaching and training. She believes that if given the right tools and tactics, any motivated person can gain the awareness and grit needed to create better opportunities.


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