Agile in Love: The Value of the Retrospective

There’s a lot of reasons why we don’t run a marriage like a business (can you imagine the overtime pay?!), but there are a couple of great ideas worth bringing home from the office.

Photo credit: Luigi Mengato

Almost every well-managed business in any industry will take the time to review and reflect on the work from the previous year(s). Perhaps it’s around tax season or at the end of the fiscal year, or when working with shareholders or advisory groups. The idea of the retrospective comes from the need to decide what impact past decisions have had on the overall outcome of events and garner any insight from that process to help shape future decisions. It also gives an organization a chance to celebrate what’s gone well and identify areas that need addressing.

Taking a cue from the tech industry, this concept of small, frequent course corrections are often more successful than big, long-term releases of projects. Agile methodology focuses on short-term iterations and incremental improvements. This approach can easily be applied to your most important relationship- with your partner.

In its strongest state, your union gives you the opportunity to do this both personally, and as a couple. Together, you have someone to help remember and reflect on the events of the past year, identifying pivotal moments that might not have registered or by offering a different perspective or version of the story than you have. It’s valuable to have someone there to celebrate your success on individual goals and to discuss strategies with for those that eluded you this year. Truthfully, this is one of the reasons why we couple up in the first place, right?

Photo credit: Magnus D

Elements of an Effective Retrospective:

The Schedule: shareholders might meet quarterly, but we’ve found it easiest to have one larger retrospective in January (during the annual State of the Union) with a shorter check-in sometime mid-year. Give yourselves a couple of hours in a pleasant setting, preferably with beverages. Bring a laptop or other means of recording your ideas.

The Agenda: a retrospective should have an agenda, divided up into the categories you which to address. A good template would cover things like personal goals (health, career, self-improvement) as well as shared ones (finance, communication, sex, social life, etc.). Post-its, Google docs, poster paper…whatever works for you guys.

The Celebration: you’ve got to celebrate what’s going well. Cheers to what’s been working. What has contributed to that success? How can that continue? Any way to apply that to other categories in your lives?

The Challenges: you are going to have some. Rather than waiting until something drives you crazy, here’s a change to talk about changes you’d like to make (or would like, ahem, others to make) in the coming year. Note: this is a good time to listen as much as you talk.

The Road Forward (technically, the prospective): come up with some plans. Again, these can be small, seemingly insignificant changes (or huge ones) you’d like to create in your lives over the next year or so. Less screen time, more walks after dinner- whatever floats your boat, or theirs, or (ideally) both of yours together.