Why Your Agency Can’t Afford to Skip Lookback Meetings

No doubt, the end of a project is a unique and anticipated time.  The team is catching their breath, and taking time to let their hard work and accomplishments sink in. 

But before this moment escapes, and your team is on to conquer the next big thing, there is one more important deliverable on the list: a Lookback Meeting

Whether your team absolutely killed it, with a client shouting praises from the rooftops, or the latest initiative barely made it–assessing a project at its completion is a crucial step to improving process, performance, and profitability.  You’re robbing your team of key improvements without it.

What is a Lookback?

You may be familiar with the terms post-mortem, debrief, or retrospective. At Proofpoint, a Lookback Meeting functions similarly, held as a forum to analyze all aspects of a project upon completion and develop actionable improvements. 

These meetings are often viewed as superfluous–i.e. what’s done is done, and we all know that meetings do add time and budget to the final equation. Some may also consider them to be a rehash, contributing little added value. 

However, done effectively, a Lookback Meeting:

  • Emphasizes a continuous learning culture: Optimization is a hallmark client offering of any digital agency; it is equally important to reinforce this mindset internally. Teammates should understand the value of refinement.
  • Improves efficiency: Reviewing a project while it is fresh in the team’s mind will help identify areas for improvement moving forward and document them as actionable items for implementation. 
  • Fosters communication: The Lookback is a structured, but open platform for teammates to talk, listen, and reflect, with the goal of improving awareness and team camaraderie.  
  • Provides transparency: Ultimately sharing meeting takeaways with management, as well as the rest of the agency team, allows everyone the opportunity to learn from the experience and ensure organizational alignment.

Proofpoint Marketing’s Lookback Meeting Methodology:

Who / Where:

To create an environment conducive to unfiltered dialogue, only teammates who worked directly on the project attend and participate.  Upper management and the agency at large are informed parties after the Lookback is complete.

To initiate, the Project Manager will:

When:

For project work, the Lookback is scheduled no later than 2 weeks after project completion. 

For longer projects, or retainer-based clients, the Lookback is held at the end of each quarter, often as a precursor conversation to the development of a Quarterly Business Review.

What/How:

It’s tempting to keep these meetings limited to a general assessment of what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done differently in the future. PPM believes there are more specific learnings to be gained.

Proofpoint applies focus to three key areas:

  • Process: Did we adhere to our workflow, and did it work for us?
  • Performance: Did our efforts yield the results we set out to achieve?
  • Profitability: Did we deliver our work on time and on budget? Where did we experience scope creep?

The Proofpoint’s Lookback Meeting Template first establishes project baselines, as a reference point for the project intent at its onset. These include:

  • Project Overview
  • Kickoff and Completion Dates (projected and actual)
  • Budget (projected and actual)
  • Goals and Objectives

At the core of the meeting, the Project Manager shares and populates a rubric with a lens for each point of efficiency.

ProcessFeedback
What went smoothly? 
Where did we experience bumps in the road?
What will we do differently moving forward?
PerformanceFeedback
Did this effort achieve its goals? 
What parts of the strategy and optimization(s) were successful? 
What strategies will be considered moving forward?
ProfitabilityFeedback
How many hours did we estimate? What were our actuals?
What areas experienced scope creep and why?
Did the project deliver by the projected due date? Why or why not?
What will we do differently moving forward?

These questions close the loop on the project’s core aims, and solidifies the outcomes. 

The Lookback is saved to the agency Drive repository, within the Client’s Strategy & Planning folder, and shared via Slack to the #all-agency channel, with core learnings and team shout outs.

Keep Your Lookback On Track:

  • Maintain objectivity: Set the tone for the meeting by reminding everyone that the evaluation is meant to contain constructive, high-level feedback. Go beyond symptoms and specify root problems. 
  • Nothing personal: The meeting should feel safe; establish this ground rule before the meeting.
  • Ensure everyone has their say: Go around the room for each question, ensuring each teammate has the chance to contribute. 
  • Make the action items S.M.A.R.T. (Specific. Measurable. Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound): Stay forward-thinking, and focus on the most achievable and relevant actions. Quickly encapsulate the meeting with a list upper management can easily approve. Empower teammates to take ownership, placing assignments in team Project Management software.
  • Celebrate wins: Congratulate your team as a whole, as well as specific contributors, acknowledging their strengths.

Let’s Get to the Point 🟠:

  • Lookbacks are an invaluable opportunity to assess and improve agency process, performance, and profitability. 
  • Pat yourselves on the back–you’ve not only completed the work, but made your agency more efficient in the process!