Importance of project retrospectives: Documenting project closure and lessons learned


In nonprofit projects, project closure should go beyond the final deliverable to include a project retrospective. A project retrospective is a meeting conducted at the end of a project to review, reflect, and learn from the process and outcomes of the project. Specifically, the project manager, project team and other relevant stakeholders such as the sponsors, clients, and users gather to reflect on what went well within the project, what did not go well, lessons learned, and what can be done better or differently in the future.
Your team could benefit significantly from a well-planned and executed retrospective. Every project presents an opportunity to learn something new about the products and services as well as about the team. Failing to engage in retrospectives risks failing to incorporate lessons learned or losing knowledge. The main benefits include:

  • Improve collaboration and workflow
    A project retrospective brings together the project team to evaluate how well they worked together, potential pain points in their collaboration, and areas for improvement. Such sessions offer an avenue for individuals to share their challenges and perspectives as a team, contributing towards enhanced communication and facilitating a culture of collaboration.
  • Identify and seize missed opportunities

    Reflecting on a project at project closure allows an organization to identify missed opportunities such as alternative options and new products and services. This points to the missed opportunities for innovation and growth that may have been overlooked. Such reflections can inform the team’s decision to implement modifications that would allow them to better seize such opportunities. Further, this encourages ideation and creative thinking among the team, fostering a culture of innovation and continuous learning.
  • Encourage accountability and transparency
    Retrospective meetings call for the project team members to discuss the performance, roles, and responsibilities of each member during the project. These reviews consider the management of resources and the impact of those decisions, contributing towards team accountability, open communication, and mutual trust.
  • Improve the structure and planning of future projects
    A retrospective equips the organization with a high amount of insights and information on what your team does well, what they struggle with, and what can be done to increase their effectiveness. This serves as a crucial knowledge base when planning future projects, and setting up for future success.
    Project perspectives are an avenue to show commitment to the project team. When you conduct a retrospective, you signal to your team that you value learning from your project experiences. You make it apparent that growth and learning are just as important as moving on to the next challenge, allowing for continued improvement.