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Learning and Knowledge Exchange


In-depth reflection on project experiences, to improve results

A Retrospect is a process to capture team-based learning from an important project/initiative of any kind, upon its completion. The goal is to identify key success factors and recommendations for continuous improvement and more effective future action. These are turned into a knowledge resource, for use by the team or by others when tackling a new project cycle or a similar initiative in the future.

A Retrospect ideally occurs soon after a project/ initiative concludes, or sometimes at major project milestones. Team members meet face-to-face to revisit the project¡¦s purpose, objectives and deliverables, and trace the proposed plan against what actually happened, in depth. The Retrospect identifies the key factors and actions that contributed to success or failure, and helps ascertain, in detail and across all relevant project activities, what could be done to improve results in the future. The recommendations that come from a Retrospect have been validated by the experience of the team.

The Retrospect and the After-Action Review (AAR, described elsewhere in this Toolbox) are complementary: The Retrospect is for in-depth reflection and comprehensive learning at the end of a project or at major milestones, focuses on its overall outputs and outcomes, and produces a formal meeting record and lessons learned that are written up and disseminated. By contrast, the AAR focuses on specific activities, is for short-term learning and quick course corrections at any point during a project, and results in an informal and typically very brief action plan shared within the project team only.


  • Facilitator, not previously involved with the project and having solid facilitation skills
  • 4 - 12 people: members of project/initiative/programme team
  • Flipchart
  • Cards and marker pens
  • 2 hours or more (up to a full day for major initiatives)

Download the full module on the Retrospect (PDF), including when and why to use, how to apply, tips for success, variations, and references. 



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