In my experience of writing software in a team, one of the most important steps – if not the most important – is the capacity to speak objectively (as a team) about the events that led up to the release of the software.
I like to call this the “the good, the bad, and the ugly“.
While the act itself is important as a team learning experience, I believe that the retrospective is critical because it’s another step towards being able to speak objectively and critically in a team setting – an act that promotes “psychological safety” within a team.
Google the term if you want to learn more about high-performing teams, but having worked on a number of them in my career, I’ve always found that the most functional teams I’ve been on have exhibited characteristics of being “psychologically safe”.
Obviously, this takes both comfort and practice, but after 8 years, Sara and I are more than comfortable enough to be able to speak critically of one another, so I’m sharing what we discussed privately in our retrospective of our family reunion.
If expected outcomes were our measure of success, we definitely succeeded because we fulfilled them all! Not to mention, quite a few family members thanked us for our efforts – that should be one of the first signs that we did a lot of things right.
- People mingled
- Took a great family photo
- Ended up with a lot of corrections to the family tree
- As an added bonus, got email addresses for a large chunk of the family where I’ve been sending updates about this blog to! Hi fam! 😀
For having only a week’s time to prepare for the 50+ person event, the organizing went extremely smoothly. We weren’t cramming the night before and had spread out the tasks over the entire week. I attribute this to Sara’s planning / organizing skills because they’re much, much better than mine. Here’s some protips (from Sara) on how to make an event go smoothly:
- Create a timeline of the day’s events and print out hard-copies to distribute to everyone
- Put all assets in labeled manila folders to be distributed on the day of the event – the more granular and contextually organized the items, the better.
- Always carry extra items like pens, post-its, extra copies of print-outs and what not.
- Pack the night before so you’re not scrambling the morning/day of.
The print out of the family tree definitely worked out better than we imagined. There were a lot of family members who fixed the tree, but it also acted as an event anchor that encouraged interactions between members of our family. If we were to recommend one item to be reused from our reunion, this would be it.
There were a few hiccups on the day of the reunion – for one, the venue actually didn’t have the appropriate seating arrangement (nor was it even possible), so we had to move people around 30 minutes before everyone arrived. I won’t lie – it was a bit hectic because there were only two of us that knew all the details. In critical situations, I tend to wear a manager hat and order people around. Ultimately, I have to remember that it’s family and not a place of business – so I don’t think I handled that as well as I could have – since after all, this is supposed to be a fun gathering – who cares about these minor inconveniences. 😀
Second, while we did have a planning schedule, we misplaced it in the chaos and so we improvised in the moment. As a result, we failed to give detailed instructions to the people at the check-in table. This led to pseudo-random distribution of favors and missed collection of email addresses. Ultimately, this was totally our fault due to the lack of communication. On a good note, we did later remedy the situation by manually walking around the venue and collecting email addresses.
Last, while I tried to stick to the schedule on the sheet that Sara printed out – and I kept reminding myself to, I ended up making up the schedule on the fly. While it worked out this time, in future events, that may not be the case. I really have to get better at sticking to pre-planned schedules. 😀
We have a fairly decent camera, but unfortunately, because of a setting enabled on the camera and the poor lighting in the room, a lot of the pictures came out blurry. This was partly due to the fact that the camera is pretty new, and Sara didn’t have a ton of experience using it. With that said, the group photo of our family was taken by another member so we did end up with a nice photo. We should have taken a few shots the night before and checked them out, but in our haste, we didn’t and ultimately lost a bunch of photos.
What We Would Do Differently
All in all, I think given the circumstances, we planned
a great an amazing family reunion, but if we’re never critical of what we’ve done, we’ll never improve. So, here’s a list of items in no particular order of what we would have done differently:
- Have more people show up early and be involved in the setup. We should have communicated a setup plan the night before with a small group of people instead of shouldering it ourselves.
- Definitely take some photos the night before to see how the camera would perform.
- Highlight features of Ancestry.com earlier in the event. We didn’t show all the amazing features of Ancestry until right before the end. There’s a lot of documents that Ancestry has collected that people were interested in such as the census scans, draft cards, yearbook photos, etc. It piqued quite a bit of people’s interest.
- I really wanted to print out something physical that everyone in the family could take home. While we are giving out a family photo as a prize for this reunion, one of my dreams is to be able to print out family baseball cards where the back of the card would have trivia about a person’s life. One of these days, I tell you…