A retrospective is a regular meeting where your creative team looks at and improves its way of working. Retrospectives are one of the tools used in an Agile Development process.
Agile is a way of working that focuses on responding to change over following a plan.
Like brushing your teeth, the more habitual and often a retro is done, the better it works. I recommend weekly retrospectives as a good starting cadence, but it depends on the team and their creative cycle.
Retrospectives are most often found as part of a software team’s workflow, but nothing stops it from being used by any team that must be creative to produce a product — for instance, suppose there’s a team of performers and technicians improvising a serial science fiction TV show to be broadcast live on Twitch, such a creative team would be one hyper-specific example which might also use retrospectives.
Retrospectives have historically been part of process improvements at Toyota’s Japanese car factories which allowed them to out-compete well-supplied United States car manufacturers, even though Japan had recently lost a war with the United States, and Toyota was starved for money and raw materials. Do you have a lot of work to do and are woefully short on resources? Do you live in a land of giants stomping around scooping up all the audience and market share leaving you with crumbs? Retrospectives can give you an edge like they gave to Toyota at the end of World War II.
Maybe you’re a software developer, maybe you’re a theatre practitioner. It doesn’t matter. If you are in a field that requires creating something cooperatively, this guide is for you.