Esther Derby's recent posts on annual reviews (summary: don't do them, at least in the way that most people do them) made me think of a tool I used recently that I called "introspectives". People on the project wanted feedback in shorter timescales than the drawn-out end date allowed and there was little time available to conduct meaningful performance reviews. (It didn't help that the project management were also nervous of allowing widespread participation in retrospectives, perhaps because they feared that they might give voice to dissatisfaction with the way that the project was evolving).
I wrote up a guided questionnaire that I hoped would allow individuals to think through their own experiences on the project and learn from them. I wanted the sequence of questions to lead from the objective to the subjective, and from the past to the future, somewhat like this:
- Perspective: project joining date, current date, co-workers since joining
- Skills: acquired, used, unused
- Highlights / achievements: project, team, personal
- Regrets / mistakes / missed opportunities: project, team, personal
- Lessons: Were the expectations that you started with on the project justified? What one thing would you most want to do differently if you started on the same project over again? How will you act differently from now on? What learning will you take with you from this project to the next one?
Interestingly, although I offered to spend time with people talking through their "completed" introspectives almost no-one wanted to do so, saying that the value of the exercise had been the thinking that they put into it themselves. So, overall I'd say that it successfully stimulated some worthwhile self-reflection. Let me know if you have used a similar technique, or if you try this and find it useful on your project.
Postscript: This quote from Naomi Karten (one of my current favourite quotes) sums up what I was hoping to achieve through introspectives: Our challenge is to remember to stop and ask, 'How might I have contributed to the situation? What might I have done to prevent it? What can I do to avoid a recurrence?'