Questions For a Better Lessons Learned Meeting

ShissoExperience is simply the name we give our mistakes.

-Oscar Wilde

I love Post Mortems.

At the end of every project, I have a strong urge to figure out what went wrong and tweak our process for the next release.

Post Mortems, or “Lessons Learned” meetings, give us a chance to look back and reflect.

At the companies I’ve worked at, Lessons Learned meetings were very straightforward.  We asked:
– What did we do right?
– How can we improve?

The emphasis was on the positive – not an attempt to point fingers or find a scapegoat.  In the spirit of kaizen, the goal is to try to improve our performance the next time through.  So I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to improve the process.  A few week’s ago, I read a blog post on how one Agile team approached their retrospectives and I was intrigued by the questions.

The first two were very familiar – similar to questions from a Waterfall PortMortem.  The next two questions floated in my head for the rest of the week:
– What did I learn?
– What still puzzles me?

The first question: What did I learn?
This stuck with me because it is refreshingly positive.  I can’t imagine having a conversation about a project and have this question come up with an answer that could take the meeting off course.  It almost seems to force people to be constructive because I know everyone learned something. It’s the kind of question that lets the responder recognize the value they took away from the effort.  No one’s time was wasted.

The second question: What still puzzles me?
I love this question. It gives you a lever to take a look at a part of the project you still cannot wrap your head around and helps you carry it forward – perhaps into a side project you look at personally or a goal that the team might want to attack the next time through. I don’t know about you, but sometimes there are issues that are identified that you can’t resolve in an hour and a half and still finish the meeting.  This question gives you the means to table the issue and capture it so that you can pick it up in another discussion.

What do you think?  Would these questions steer your Lessons Learned meetings to a better place?  Leave me a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

P.S. I’ve been kicking myself for a week because I can’t find the original post on retrospectives.  If you read it too, please let me know so I can link it here.  Peace.

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