How Year End ‘Retros’ Can Help Your Mission Driven Organization Thrive

December 12, 2018

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You may have heard of (or even used) a common practice in Agile Software Development, known as Retrospectives (or Retros). Retros are fantastic as they serve as a forcing agent to unearth compelling outcomes, key challenges and unexpected opportunities. They also tap into the collective knowledge and set of experiences of your team, empowering them to learn from both their successes and pitfalls, and to make iterative improvements over time. I am not suggesting that you only hold one of these a year, but if you start there, the end of the year is a nice time to reflect and plan anew. At this natural slow down in activity, your team can pause to learn what worked and what didn’t, and then let the space of the holidays provide an open canvas for creativity, inventive ideas, and operational ones for process improvement and productivity enhancement.


As the world shifts, so too do the expectations on non-profits and other mission driven organizations. Outcomes are required for funding, and yearly goals are set for improved impact and growth. Yearly reports must be filed, which provide one avenue for review, but when self selected, a year-end retro provides a fresh way to vest people in the process of continuous improvement. There are many styles and ways to run retros, but the key ingredients are as follows:


  1. Timing: ensure that you plan it ahead so that folks can attend. Also share the importance of this both short and long-term for everyone involved (including how it can lead to positive impact on the audience you serve)
  2. Team: invite the appropriate team members and select with intention. Cross disciplinary teams are advantageous as they lead to idea sharing from a cross section of your organization, providing the most complete picture and brain power.
  3. Format: make sure that each person has time to share a “Win”, a “Challenge that they faced” and an “Opportunity” that they see for improvement for themselves or the team or both.
  4. Time block the meeting so that everyone has an equal amount of time. We encourage you to actually use a timer. It may feel awkward at first, but it will allow those who tend to speak less to have their window to speak, while limiting those that speak endlessly :-)
  5. Create rituals that can be consistently adhered to over time. This helps to create a pattern that people can understand and follow, thereby leading to normalized expectations and clearer, actionable outputs from each meeting.


We have also included a more detailed source for HOW TO RUN ONE, in case you’d like more contour and explanation. Enjoy this opportunity to flush out wins, challenges and opportunities, with your team, and utilize some of the hidden gems you discover, to showcase outcomes to your funders, and for planning program expansion and refinement for the following year.


To learn more about how to scale your programs and show outcomes on Dream See Do, contact us today for a demo.