It’s human nature to raise our expectations as we achieve success. As a result, it’s almost inevitable that we under-recognize our successes. When we succeed, we begin to subtly raise the bar and lose track of whether we achieved our actual goals. We rarely apply the same standard to failures. Having short blocks where we deliver specific objectives that iteratively build towards a larger goal (sprints, baby!) help to keep us focused by constantly reminding us of our success criteria. Retrospectives are equally important. We call them RetroSpectaculars.
This has been on my mind lately because the Keller Rohrback Masters Team significantly over-achieved this year. We set out to be the best Masters Criterium team in the Northwest from June through July, which we achieved. As a team, methodically broke the seasons down into 2-month blocks and agreed on objectives together that would build towards our big objective. We weren’t really focused on winning outside the Criteriums, but we ended up being players in other road races, winning more Masters road races in the state than any other team. The interesting part of that is that we weren’t viewed as a road race team because we recognized our time constraints and focused on races that the majority of our riders could run. The team skipped races where we would have to split our team to field 2-3 riders in every road race. Because of our strategy, the team was expected to win every race we entered.
Despite our best effort, that expectation crept into our minds too. We ended the season at the Masters National Championships in Bend, OR, were we performed to our original expectations, which was for fun. However, we weren’t factors in any of the races except the 40-45 Crit where our team-mate (and VMC co-worker!) Mike Hainsworth was in the top 5 of the race before a crash took him out with three laps to go. Somehow, that felt super-disappointing because our own expectations had crept up, just like human nature dictates. As a result, the season felt like it fell short when in actuality we over-achieved.
All of this brings us to the RetroSpectacular. Just like after a sprint or project completion, our team will have a retrospective where we’ll cover what went well, what went differently than we expected and what will we do (or not do) differently next time. Notice that I don’t ask what went wrong. I’ve come to a place in my project management experience where I feel we look too hard to define things as failure. A typical post mortem would ask why we failed to do better at Nationals. Instead, we need to note that what really happened was that the team was more competitive than expected and that raised expectations. Understanding this directly impacts what we do next year. If a team defined this season as failure, they may seek to implement a plan to win nationals without asking whether that’s actually desirable and worth the trade-offs.Michael Pruitt chronicles his pursuits as both an Engagement Manager at VMC Consulting and an avid cyclist, and will talk about the overlap and learnings from both in this blog series. You can contact Michael at MichaelPru@vmc.com.