family_meetingIn Agile methodologies, software development teams have a meeting called a "retrospective" at the end of an iteration. The purpose is to continually improve as a team.

Family retrospectives encourage open communication, and teach your children valuable skills in problem solving, acknowledging their/other people's needs, and accountability to themselves and their family.

As an Agile coach, I see the retrospective as the quintessential element of a high performing agile team. As a mom, I'm thrilled with how they've helped my family communicate and connect.

Steps to Creating a Retrospective

1. Schedule a time/place for the meeting

We've done it after dinner or during long car rides. It doesn't really matter where you are, as long as everyone is present without distraction. Make sure everyone participating is aware of the purpose and process.

2. Create a chart with 3 columns

Things to celebrate. A list of the things going right -- they can be individual achievements, family milestones, etc. A few examples: baby started crawling, dad fixed a broken sink, grandmas are awesome

Things we want to change. A list of the things going not so right -- they can be about yourself, or others. A few examples: too much whining, going out to eat too much, the yard has been overtaken by poison ivy

Action Items. This is the list of what everyone is going to focus on between this retro and the next one to help change something that's not working.

3. Have everyone go around to fill up the "what's working" "what needs to change" columns.

Acknowledge and move on. This is not a time for solutions nor is it a time for being defensive.

Be honest and kind. Avoid finger pointing. Focus on your emotions and needs. "I am frustrated with the whining" instead of "Sally's whining is driving me crazy"

4. Choose the things to change. Real change takes effort and time. Its better to follow through on one thing than try to do everything.

Decide as a group. Usually there are a few things almost everyone agrees is a problem. In addition, each individual may select 1-2 personal items to work on.

Be the change you want to see. If you had your heart set on something and its not selected, figure out something related you can do on your own.

It only works if everyone buys in. The perfect solution isn't perfect if nobody wants to do it. Give into a less than optimal idea if that's what most people want -- by the grace of God you'll be surprised with the outcome.

5. Determine action items

Brainstorm together. Everyone needs to be on board with the solution. You're looking for win-win. If you know the perfect solution that nobody is into, let it go.

Be specific. Instead of "exercise more" say "we're going to walk to school on Tuesday and Thursday"

Simplicity is divinity. If you can't make it specific, simplify the goal. Sometimes an action item is observing, measuring and/or researching

Post the Chart someplace visible, like the fridge, so everyone is reminded and schedule the next retrospective 1-2 weeks later.

For the first few meetings, be conservative in your challenges and generous with your celebrations. Your family has their lifetime to improve, this is just a small step.

Image: RebeccaVC1