Monday 5 July 2010

The role of the note taker at a lessons meeting

Tapping a Pencil
Originally uploaded by Rennett Stowe

The Retrospect meeting is an effective and time-proven approach to identifying and capturing lessons from a project.

A Retrospect is an occasion where a knowledge and experience is brought into the open and debated in an intense round-the-table discussion. The Retrospect needs a facilitator, and (unless you are audio-recording the Retrospect) a note taker.

The role of a note-taker at a retrospect is a crucial role. There may never be another occasion where this knowledge is made explicit. It is a demanding role, and requires a lot of concentration.

The output from a retrospect will be a performance history, or the start of a knowledge asset. Experience over several years has shown us that best way to store and transfer knowledge is in the words of the participants. The power and context of the knowledge is retained in it is kept in the verbatim voices of the people who were involved. This means that we must record verbatim quotes and stories from the retrospect itself, and make sure that these are attributed to the people who spoke.

The structure of the retrospect, and the role of the note taker, is as follows.

The objectives of the project
It is important that you record, as closely as possible, the participants' common view of what the objectives of the project were. This will include personal objectives.

The achievements of the project
in this part of the meeting, there may be much discussion of "what actually happened". This can be an important source of anecdotes and war stories. Please try and capture the gist of these, as closely as possible using the words that were spoken. Please make sure that each of these quotes and stories is attributed to the speaker. At if the facilitator manages to draw out any lessons from the future, please make sure that these are recorded, and justified by including the stories and experiences behind the lessons.

What went well
in this part of the meeting, each individual will have the chance to discuss things that he or she identifies as success factors. It is important, not only to identify the success factors themselves, but also to capture, in the participants own words, the stories, examples, and reasoning behind the success factors.

What did not go so well
please treat this as the previous part of meeting. As before, the important things to record are the recommendations for the next project, and the anecdotes, illustrations and stories (attributed) that illustrate these.

Lessons and actions
Here it is vital that you record these accurately. If you aren't sure, read back what you have recorded, and make sure people agree with it.

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