Power of blameless retrospectives

27 Dec, 2020 - 00:12 0 Views
Power of blameless retrospectives Covid-19 has revealed many naked things that should change how we dress up, how we conduct ourselves, how we plan and what we value

The Sunday Mail

Hunt for Greatness
Milton Kamwendo

Unless you can go beyond blame, you will remain lame and never master the game of greatness. The year 2020 has been a year and a season that is hard to describe in a few lines.

Life is like that. It is the pandemic year and pandemics do not come every day and few generations ever get to witness them or live through them.

Pandemics come to pound some sense into our heads. The first lesson for me in this pandemic is that, sadly people die in a pandemic but not all deaths are caused by the pandemic. The second lesson is that the pandemic does not mean that the world has ended and life has come to an end. Pandemics are accelerators and come pregnant with lessons, myths, surprises and revelations.

Mr Warren Buffet once said: “You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.”

Sadly but importantly, this pandemic has revealed many naked things that should change how we dress up, how we conduct ourselves, how we plan and what we value.

The last I heard of the year of “furuwenza” was when my grandmother was trying to explain what happened when she was still a beautiful one. Something that I could not understand and made me wonder why that year was so special.

I thought she was trying to explain something about the evils of ageing. I thought those sad years had happened, then passed and we now know better.

Then, I was too naive to even understand what that influenza was all about and why it was a landmark period. I thought what she was referring to, belonged to old people’s idle tales and poor calendar markings. I had thought then that this is what happens when old people want to fix blame. Life knew better and I could have listened more. Never fix blame, rather fix the issue. Fixing blame never solved anything or developed anyone or took anyone anywhere.

Finally, I am beginning to understand, dimly though as I learn to look at things with an eye of appreciation. I also know I will be speaking about this year, this pandemic, as a time marker for many years to come and 2020 is not an ordinary year. I hope my grandchildren will care to listen to my musings and ask a few intelligent questions that will help us learn together and see what matters.

Hindsight is 20-20 vision. It is when we look back that we understand best and see more clearly, if we use the right spectacles. When going through turbulence it is easy to substitute experiments for wisdom, guess-work for scientific evidence and fear for facts.

How you look back determines what you see, what you learn and what you do. It is an epic choice to either fix the problem or fix the blame. Whatever you fix determines whether you move forward or remain stuck in the past. Whenever we move into the future, we must always take the best parts of the past.

Taking the worst parts of the past and parading them is not genius but self-mutilation. Leave the hurts, bitterness and pains of the past where they belong and do not let anything blind your faith, wound your spirit and dull your energies. The world is racing ahead and not backwards. Vision prompts us to desire to be better than a museum of the past. The software running in our heads and conversations matters as it informs our actions and attitude.

Agile software developers have a wisdom that should be applied to all life. It is difficult to build any technology tool and get it to work 100 percent all the time. Developers have to keep getting feedback and using this to make changes, improvements, adaptations. All the while, they must look-back, learn from the past and from what was done and then build these experiences into the future.

They have to look at the whole value stream and learn. In technology terms they call these looking-back conversations and sessions “retrospectives”. These retrospectives allow teams to look back, reflect on what works and what is not working with the aim of improving the solutions and meeting the customer’’s needs. Looking back does not always work if it is done in the wrong spirit and is just done for token purposes. People are naturally defensive and they try to protect their egos, fix the blame, raise dust, advance sinister agenda, create noise, and I am sure you know best what I am talking about.

The type of retrospectives that work best are called “blameless retrospectives”. These are sessions where people look back and try to see the issues for what they are without fixing the blame.

Instead of shielding egos and creating endless battles, trying to apportion blame, blameless retrospectives allow all the voices to be heard, in the spirit of learning, growth and continuous improvement. Blameless retrospectives allow the truth to be told because people are not under threat of losing their job, their pride and their entitlements.

Blameless retrospectives allow for learning from both success and failure. They start with the premise and assumption that everyone did the best that they could at the time, with the knowledge that they had, the skills that they had and the understanding they had. The starting point for looking back determines what you see and what you miss. Scouting for blame leads to hide and seek games that do not lead to greatness.

As we look back at 2020 and the decades before it, consider taking some blameless retrospectives, alone or with others. Put your ego on the backseat and the real mission in the front seat. It is not enough to fight wars without rewards, battles without gain and contests without closure. See the big picture with an eye to learn and to grow.

Learn from both success and failure. Failure is normal wherever work is taking place and goals are being pursued. If lessons of the past are not learned using the eye of blameless retrospectives, the mistakes of the past are bound to be repeated and amplified.

Learn fast and you will not fail fast. You cannot learn anything with a closed mind, closed eyes and closed ears. Until you are willing to listen you will never learn or grow. Greatness is a growth process and a willingness to take frequent blameless retrospectives.

Learning from the past is the best vaccine for the future. In times of change learners go forward faster. Yet those that are looking for places to hand blame remain in the past, digging up rotting skeletons that they cannot resurrect. Take the best learnings from the past through blameless retrospectives. Suspend judgement, suspend prejudice and be open to learn and translate understanding into wisdom. When issues are clouded by many tissues wrong lessons are learnt and the future is built on flawed premises.

May the year ahead be your best year ever. Building on the lessons of the past, take the best parts of the past and build great things.

Committed to your greatness.


Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and growth mentor. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and His website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com


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