16-May-2023 by Allison McMillan

Read Time: Approx. 4 minutes

The Art of Retrospectives: Lessons from Netflix's Jewish Matchmaking on Boosting Team Performance

As a surprise to probably no one, I was very excited when Netflix premiered Jewish Matchmaking a couple of weeks ago. The show has lots of fantastic moments, explanations, and interpretations but my favorite part was when the matchmaker did, what I consider, a great retrospective with one of the participants.

What is a retrospective? A retrospective, usually known colloquially as a "retro", is an opportunity for a team or group of individuals to reflect on (ideally) immediately past work and determine what changes or improvements can be made for the future. While retrospectives became popular as a part of an Agile workflow, they don't have to be used strictly in that sense. Teams do retrospectives when it makes sense for them. Some teams do them at regular intervals regardless of where they are in a workstream, others do it at the end of each sprint, and others will run a retro at the end of each project or feature. Folks can also run retros looking at larger periods of time, for example, a retrospective of the last quarter or the last half of the year.

Inspiration for retros can strike from anywhere and there are dozens of different ways to run effective retrospectives. The primary goals are that you provide folks with:

  1. A way to look back and share both positive feelings about what's going well and what felt a little rough
  2. Space to talk about the aforementioned items
  3. Identified actions moving forward to make things better

So, what on earth does this have to do with the show Jewish Matchmaking? Well, in episode 4, Aleeza pulls out a worksheet that shows a suitcase (it's right around the 10 minute mark if you want a good visual). Her goal here is to have someone assess their dating history, or otherwise, their dating baggage: "Dating baggage can include negative dating experiences, fears about dating, everything that's inside that you can't see." She then goes on to say "And we're going to put it on paper to evaluate it together to lighten that luggage." The goal is to recognize what individuals are carrying around, and what are they thinking that likely impacts their actions, which ultimately also impacts how a project gets executed. This same idea can be used as a retrospective but I've also seen tactics like this used in a "pre-mortem" which is a way to discuss and hopefully allay fears or concerns before a project kicks off. Reflection, understanding, and discussion are the primary ways effective teams move forward and continue to get better and better every day.

Now that we've defined what a retro is and what it's used for, here are some of my favorite retros:

  • 6 hats. I love using this one. It has a good variety of approaches and you can even switch up how you do each hat to allow for better participation from both introverts and extroverts
  • The sailboat retro. The general gist of this one is that you draw a boat with a sail and an anchor and you use the picture to write, post-it, and discuss what weighs you down and what gives you speed.
  • Liked, Learned, Lacked. I used this one frequently as a personal retrospective when I wanted to do some personal and professional self-reflection. You make 3 columns, liked, learned, and lacked, and write ideas/thoughts down for each one
  • Draw the sprint/project. Folks draw (or find a gif) that represents the work you're retro-ing on. It's both fun and informative to then have people share and discuss why they drew (or chose) the image they did.

The most important thing to remember when running a retrospective is to make sure that there are action items and point people assigned to those at the end of the session. One common pitfall I see frequently from teams is that they are going through the motions of having a retro, but the same issues keep coming up, and there's no progress made on those problems or concerns from one retro to the next. Additionally, action items distilled from the meeting aren't revisited again so they get lost in time and space until the issue happens over and over. The retro is useful for the reflection time, understanding, and discussion but then the actual actions and fixes need to follow in order for this to be an effective use of time and energy.

With that, I'll leave you to it! Go Retro on and don't forget to have fun with it!

a variety of bags and personal items all stacked up on top of each other

Ready to chat?

Join my mailing list

* indicates required

Set up a free call

phone icon