In your day-to-day work, does your team ever stop to reflect on how you work together, what you’ve learned, and how you can improve? Just as the annual performance review is being replaced by frequent feedback and open communication between managers and employees, your team also benefits from periodic process reviews. These review meetings allow your team to reflect on how it collaborates, to learn from this reflection, and to get better at working together as a team.
What is a Team Review Meeting? Why is it Important?
A solid review lets team members individually and collectively analyze team processes and identify areas for improvement. Scheduling periodic team review meetings helps your team incorporate recent learnings, whether your work is project-based or not. Team review meetings (also known as after-action review or retrospective) allow your team to:
Collectively analyze which current practices work and which don’t.
Identify how to collaborate better in the future.
Learn from successes and failures.
Learn from peers, not just managers.
Establish concrete next steps.
Team review meetings are not to discuss sales numbers or other quantitative data, or to assign blame or critique individual performance. The focus is on process, not outcomes. At Meeteor, we have regular blog writing team review meetings which has sped up our internal process for blog article creation.
4 Main Areas for Reflection
We suggest four main areas for reflection in your team review meetings, each with a variety of questions. Use as many as you like to inspire a rich discussion that benefits the team!
How do you communicate as a team? How do you use email, online chats and meetings to collaborate with each other? Are these practices helpful? What’s the quality and frequency of your communication? Should it be adjusted in any way? Do you encounter any communication challenges working with team members? Do people feel comfortable speaking up? Is the team inclusive in that it allows everyone to have a say?
How do you make decisions? Are your current decision-making methods effective? Do you usually agree with the decisions the team makes? Does the team follow through on the decisions it’s made? How do you resolve conflict? Are boundaries clear on what decisions can be made by individuals and which require team input?
Alignment on Goals and Roles
To what extent is there clarity about the team’s goals and priorities? How do each team member’s tasks relate to each other? What does the workflow look like? Are there opportunities for individuals to grow and be challenged?
Is information shared in a timely manner? Is information stored in accessible locations for all team members to access? Does the team collectively refer to previous information to stay aligned and on track?
Now that you know the purpose of team review meetings, let’s explore how to successfully implement them.
Set Clear Expectations to Create a Safe Space.
Clear communication is key to addressing potential resistance some team members may have to review meetings. You want to avoid people behaving defensively or arguing with each other. The goal is to make the meeting about process, rather than individual performance. Gear the meeting toward learning and developing action plans for the future. Include specific norms in the agenda so people know what behavior is expected during the review meeting.
A desired outcome of the meeting might be: “To improve the team's future performance by learning about how we work together.” Get even more specific with: “Identify 3 things we can change as a team going forward.”
Refer to the agenda template below for inspiration.
Gather Individual Reflections Ahead of Time
As prework, ask each team member to share their thoughts on a Google Doc prior to the meeting and to read others’ comments. This serves a couple purposes: 1) it makes it more likely that everyone’s voice will be included, and, 2) people might be more reflective because they have done the work in advance of the meeting, eliminating the performance pressure of thinking on the spot (which may be particularly helpful for introverts on the team.)
If your team prefers to comment anonymously, ask them to share their thoughts directly with the team leader or set up an anonymous survey. The team leader can then consolidate the results into themes and bring them to the meeting for discussion.
At Meeteor, we apply the ORID question model (Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional) to design the team review questions. These questions help people share concrete examples and reflect on past experience. You can adapt the questions to your needs.
What is happening compared to what is desired, and why?
What is successful and where are we missing the mark?
What is working well that you would recommend repeating, and why?
What is not working well or as planned that you would recommend changing, and why?
What new approaches would you recommend trying, and why?
What are the 3-5 learnings that this team or a future team should know about?
Is there anything else this team or a future team should know about?
Use “Start, Stop, Continue” Exercise to Identify Next Actions
Team review meetings are not just to learn and reflect, but also to generate specific actions. Prepare some post-its and ask people to write down what practices they think the team should start, stop or continue doing. Write one idea on each post-it and put everyone’s ideas on a whiteboard or flipchart under the categories “Stop,” “Start,” and “Continue.” Then group the post-its into similar themes. The team can discuss these ideas and decide on specific actions that address these concerns.
Virtual teams can type their ideas into an online shared document with the three columns. Project the results on the screen so everyone can see them clearly for discussion.
This exercise is especially helpful for ongoing teams to do periodically so they can continue to improve upon processes.