Personal Retrospective – a look back on the past year

figure looking at reflection in mirror

As I look back at the past year of my life, I realize how much I have learned from Agile 2012 to Agile 2013. Yes, I should be learning things every year, in fact I strive to learn every day, but in the past year I have learned exponential amounts more than in the past years of my life. I wonder if this is a phenomenon that many people realize at points in their lives, or every year? I have not just learned about Agile and gained work experience (though I have done those things) but I have also learned some huge life lessons and learned a lot about myself.

I wanted to make myself look at the past year and really lay it out to see how far I have come. This is a good individual retrospective activity that can be done with teams as well, either after a large release or after a regular iteration when maybe things didn’t go so well. I would suggest after an activity like this to also look at doing something else moving such as the Agile Superpowers activity, a very powerful activity where you can directly take the reflections that come out of your personal retro and apply them – depending on what the facilitator is asking.

Back to the personal retro – simply give team members sheets of paper and ask them to reflect alone on

  1. What did I accomplish in the past <sprint, release, year>
  2. What could have went better in the past <sprint, release, year>
  3. What did I learn from this in the past <sprint, release, year>

You can then ask anyone to share if they feel comfortable. This should be in a safe environment as all retros should be. Be aware that people can get very emotional and you are there to support and facilitate. It is a personal growth activity and that growth will seep into team interactions after realizations are made about personal behavior.

I found this to be very powerful personally. Sometimes it’s easy to see the perceived failures and not realize what was actually learned from them and that they aren’t in fact failures. The more you dwell on them as failure, they can overshadow all the accomplishments in that time too. It’s important to give yourself credit for accomplishments and really think about what you can do in the future to avoid making the same mistakes. I try to find a learning out of everything, and as hard as it is for me and many others, sometimes I can’t do it alone. In that case I turn to my coaching friends to help coach me through it.

It is always very profound to me how much I actually know, and I’m not sure where I picked it up from. This activity can help you and your team to determine some of that. When you realize how much you really do know it can be very empowering. Proper coaching and asking the right questions instead of leading toward and answer can draw some of this knowledge out and make teams and individuals realize how much they really know and maybe just didn’t admit to themselves. The yield from this retrospective can also help individuals set goals for the next sprint, release, year, what have you – personally or professionally. What are some of my big learnings from the year and discoveries of knowledge?

  • I learned how to be true to myself with what makes me happy career-wise and otherwise
  • I know how to start over and I had the courage to do it
  • I can take risks and not take it as personally if they don’t pan out (still working on this one)
  • I deserve to be happy and will not settle
  • I know more than I thought I did about many things – but am so far from knowing everything or being an expert (Dunning-Kruger effect)
  • I can be a more effective introvert
  • I don’t have all the answers and need help sometimes (probably still more often than I’d like to admit)
  • How to start building my personal brand and how to share it with others
  • I need to continue to emit the confidence others see in me to myself
  • I should not be so hard on myself
  • It’s never too late to make a change

What are you overshadowing an accomplishment with a perceived failure? What have you learned from these things? What do you know that you don’t realize? How will you be better in the next year? What goals do you want to achieve by Agile 2014?

15. August 2013 by Natalie Warnert
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  1. Pingback: Just showing up | Confessions of a ScrumMaster

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