Retrospects are an alternative form of learning, offered increasingly by the Stockholm Evaluation Unit.
In contrast to a full evaluation, retrospects are an internal learning exercise designed to capture the learning from a project team, after a piece of work is completed.
Importantly, the retrospect can be a powerful tool for bringing about closure from within a team, which is often the most significant deliverable, especially if the project experience has been difficult on an emotional or psychological level.
The retrospect meeting lasts from a couple of hours to a couple of days, and is facilitated by a member of the evaluation team, although it is important to note that no independent judgement is made about the topic discussed. As such, retrospects are internal, designed to bring out the key knowledge and experience developed by a project team, and turn it into actions and resources for the benefit of future projects.
A retrospect meeting revisits the objectives and deliverables of the project, asks what went well and what could have gone better, and why.
A retrospect should normally take place as soon as possible after a project is completed. The duration varies depending on number of people, duration and complexity of the project.
In the final stage, the facilitator produces a short “jargon-free” report synthesising the lessons identified from the retrospect. Again, no judgement is made; the report simply provides a record of the discussion, categorising the learning themes and highlighting any actions to be taken.