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The Product Management Retrospective

You’ve just introduced your latest product release, introduced a new product or capability or launched the product. Now What? What about a retrospective? While product management and product marketing professionals often see engineering and development using retrospectives, how can you use this method to look back at what happened, while positively influencing the future?

What is a Retrospective?
A retrospective thrives in organizations using SCRUM methods and is a meeting where the team discusses the Sprint that just concluded and determines what could change that might improve the next Sprint.

In SCRUM terminology, anything that affects how the team builds software is open for debate. This could include processes, practices, communication, collaboration, environment, artifacts and tools. I believe and have experienced that a retrospective for product management and product marketing will provide clarity to future activities. Why?

Why a Retrospective?
Retrospectives bring insight and clarity. While it originated to bring development teams together, product management and product marketing need similar insight and collaborative review. While we have many one-on-one conversations and numerous meetings with stakeholders, product management and product marketing benefit from looking back to improve what’s ahead. Using retrospectives, product professionals will have insight into:

  • What’s happened and what’s currently happening?
  • What current activities have made the most impact?
  • What processes and best practices have worked and what needs improvement?
  • How is communication and what can be better?

Product Management and Product Marketing contribute and bring clarity to:

  • What’s changed or influencing our market?
  • What stories can you tell us that will validate where we are going?
  • What’s the competition doing and will it influence what’s planned?
  • Has anything shifted or influenced our strategy?
  • What’s the status of the product roadmap?
  • How are customer using our products and what have they experienced?
  • What’s been developed or delivered from the product marketing roadmap and how will it influence the channel?
  • What’s the timing or status of the next product launch?
  • How does our positioning resonate with customers and non-customers?
  • What has product management learned since our last retrospective?
  • What has product marketing experienced since we last met?

Implementing a Retrospective
At best, retrospectives are a great tool for infusing continuous improvement and collaboration, Depending on who you collaborate with most often, and the focus and role of your position, the following five areas should be considered when leading a retrospective.

  • Goals – in advance of the meeting, let everyone know about the focus of the retrospective, what you like to achieve and ask for input, topics and invite other to bring their accomplishments and war stories.
  • Set the Stage -let everyone know you’re hear to share, learn, listen and provide constructive feedback, as well as receive it. Look for ways to improve relationships.
  • Gather Data – before you get together, prepare current information and data that would be relevant. Ask other to share 2-3 minutes worth of information.
  • Generate Insight – with discussions flowing, start asking the why questions that will generate insight, support and consensus
  • Decide What to Do – while this isn’t a planning meeting, capture the information, validation and feedback. If you have access to a coach or facilitor, ask them to lead the session, so you can really engage and not worry about meeting management.

To stage better product delivery and introduction, I believe you should try a retrospective. If you’ve tried a retrospective, please share your experience. If you haven’t experienced a product management or product marketing led retrospective, give it a try and let us all know how it goes.

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  1. jennifer doctor

    A retrospective, or “post mortem” is a required element in any IT implementation project. While it is more common with a product management team; it is an essential element that should be included in any go-to-market plan, and one that is all too often overlooked in the rush to make corrective actions for the needed course corrections to better enable sales velocity.

    However, how can you improve and make those changes if you don’t pause for a moment and objectively, using meaningful measures, review all elements of the plan/project?

    Proceeding forward without looking back is a classic definition of insanity. Stop the madness?

  2. Olaf Kowalik

    Jim, nice outline of a retrospective. Any thoughts on how you keep objective and ensure ownership? I’ve seen plenty of these devolve into finger pointing and “that’s just the way it is.” I think your suggestion to get a facilitator is good one–often having a team member try and lead these makes it difficult to move towards action and outcomes.

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