The HeadScratcher Post Archive
April 2010
Retrospective Thinking
         April 2010 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC Edition 60
Celebrating 5 years of The HeadScratcher Post

Retrospective Thinking

As we look back at the 5 year history of The HeadScratcher Post, we thought a piece on Retrospective Thinking was in order.

When you review a completed initiative, some call it "Post Mortem Analysis", or "Post Project Analysis", or "Hindsight", or just "Knowing then what we know now", etc. These discussions usually take place in meetings that include those who participated in an initiative. The team gets together and discusses what went right and what went wrong during the project.

Here are a few ideas for your next one:
In addition to asking "what did we DO right and wrong", or "what could we have DONE better", etc., consider reviewing the "thinking" that went into the doing.


  • What assumptions did we make and why?
  • In retrospect, were those assumptions valid or invalid and why?
  • What was the thinking that led us to those assumptions?
  • What did we do, or could have done, to monitor if our assumptions were valid?
  • What symptoms, evidence, and measurements occurred where we understood the risks and potential consequences and either took action, or didn't, and why?
  • What knowledge did we lack during the initiative, and if we had it, the result would have been different? How could we have obtained that knowledge?
  • What did we think was clear and was, and what did we think was clear, but was not?
  • Why didn't we get clear on what wasn't clear?

Use Retrospective Thinking when tackling a new project. Before starting a new project, go back to the last "Post Mortem" and ask how this project is similar to that one, and what "Thinking" may have to change with respect to this new project.

The Takeaway: Thinking precedes Doing. Therefore, when looking back at successes and failures, it's critical to understand the Thinking that went into the Doing. With this understanding you are more likely to repeat a success and avoid a future mistake or failure. Here's to the next 5 years!

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