I walk through a variation on this statement (originally from Norm Kerth) at the beginning of a retrospective:

The Retrospective Prime Directive

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he/she could, given what he/she knew at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Once in a while, I run into someone (almost always a manager) who rejects this notion and says, “I don’t believe everyone does the best job they can.”

So here’s Esther’s Elaboration

I personally make a rather broad interpretation of “the situation at hand” which (in my mind at least) may include:

  • personal problems
  • low self-esteem
  • family distractions
  • not liking the job
  • not having the necessary skills
  • systemic problems that lead to less than desirable results
  • being bored with the work
  • having a character disorder
  • having significant difficulties in the area of self-management.

    Now, some of these aspects of the “situation” may require management action. The fact that some one is doing the best job he/she could doesn’t always mean it’s acceptable within an employment arrangement.

    But that’s not part of the retrospective… that’s management work.

    Management work means:

  • hiring appropriately
  • setting clear expectations for results
  • creating an environment for success
  • removing obstacles
  • providing feedback about the work
  • providing appropriate training and coaching
  • working with people to make sure they are in a job that’s a good fit
  • developing capabilities in the group
  • and making difficult decisions when necessary.