To start, a quick disclaimer. Retrospectives are an Agile thing and while I’ve worked at places that used bits and pieces of Agile, I am far from an expert. This write up is for noobs like me looking for a way to learn from their mistakes rather than repeat them.
So, you wrapped a big project. Deliverables delivered, clients happy, all the hell of actually making the thing behind you. At this point, you’re eager to move on to the next challenge. At this point the last thing you want to do is litigate that difficult conversation with the client about budget, or the unintended consequences of that last minute timeline shift, or how you really should have stuck to your guns on that script revision.
It’s natural to want to get on with things, but if I could impart one lesson as a moderately seasoned video marketer with tons of experience of every online video maker around, it would be this: always do a retrospective.
What’s a retro?
A retrospective (or if you’re goth, a post-mortem) is a follow up meeting directly after the end of a project. At this point, your memories are fresh and it’s the optimal time to take stock of how the project went and most importantly write that assessment down for posterity.
Why do I like them?
Firstly, I believe that one of the keys to creative success is self-reflection. Looking inward and examining our process is the first step to improving it, and practicing this idea as a group can be revolutionary. Regardless if you’re freelance, in-house, agency or non of the above, we all have times where we feel stuck. The same (bad) outcomes keep happening and we don’t know how to improve them. Well, fixing those things can be hard but if you can’t identify them in the first place it’s nearly impossible.
Conversely if you don’t identify your successes, you can’t lean into what you do best and figure out how to do more of that.
Retrospective meetings combine this idea of self-reflection with the idea of being actionable. The goal is to come out of the meeting with a better understanding of what happened, and insight to help you and your team do an even better job on the next mission.
For video teams especially, we do a lot of different kinds of work. Throughout the course of a project your team is not only doing creative things like concepting, script writing, filming, animating, and editing… they’re also doing managerial things like scheduling, budgeting holding meetings.
Because the team has so many things to think of and production has so many moving pieces, when it’s all done it’s so easy for potential insights to get lost without a formal process for immediate review. Doing a retrospective as a team right after you finish a project ensures you gain as much insight as possible before memories fade, and you make changes collectively as a team rather than dictate changes from above.
How do you run the meeting?
Despite all this lofty talk about introspection, retros are easy. The way I run them is based around what I learned from the excellent team at my very first agency, Sculpt. We’d pick a project and answer the following questions as a team:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What things did we learn?
- What new questions do we have?
- What action items do we have moving forward?
That’s it. It’s really not hard.
What’s important is that people have time to think about these questions and discuss them as a group. In a larger team, it can be helpful to put these questions on a whiteboard or have folks come prepared with thoughts in advance.
The most important question in the retro is the last one: action items. Talking about what happened is great, but learning from it requires making changes and being able to articulate next steps is the key to make retrospectives empowering and actionable, not just a forum for commiseration.
When the meeting is done, make sure you’ve captured everything in your notes, share them with your video team, and put those insights to work. Continuous improvement is a powerful motivator and creativity multiplier, retros are an essential tool to achieve that.
Read more posts about the business of video here.
Have more questions about running video teams? Let’s chat.