Reflection is a form of mental processing based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding that we already possess while reflective practice emphasises the use of reflection in professional or other complex activities as a means of coping with situations that are ill-structured and/or unpredictable. Reflection is a crucial learning tool for both individuals and organisations, and yet it is an area which gains little formal focus within many organisations.
This reflective report explores the topics of ‘reflection’ and ‘learning through reflection’ within the context of the project environment within one of Australia’s major telecommunications companies. As this report is publicly accessible, the company name cannot be used, instead it will be referred to as ‘The Company’ throughout the report. This limitation has also prevented the inclusion of company-specific references which would identify the organisation.
The paper will first present a description of a focus project, a major project within The Company, which incorporated reflective practice but which could have implemented reflective practice more effectively. The project was to develop and deploy a comprehensive new software development methodology within The Company; a methodology based on the information technology paradigm of Agile software development.
Implementing Agile methodology within The Company involved:
- Industry and vendor engagement to develop a comprehensive ‘best practice’ Agile methodology and framework which also met the specific needs of The Company.
- Training for staff within the large information technology department of The Company.
- The implementation of new metrics and measures to reflect on, and validate the success of, the new methodology.
The report then outlines the approach and methodology taken for this project with a particular focus on the methodology regarding reflective practice.
The Agile methodology implemented within The Company incorporates a significant amount of reflective practice in the form of ‘retrospectives’. A retrospective is a meeting held by the project team at the end of a project or process to discuss what was successful about the project or time period covered by that retrospective, what could be improved, and how to incorporate the successes and improvements in future iterations or projects. The retrospective process is an example of social learning and experiential learning but not problem-based learning.
The report then explores the ‘lessons learnt through reflective practice’ for this project and organisation, and then finally, explores how ‘learning through reflection’ could have improved the outcome of this project – and indeed other major projects undertaken by The Company as well.
The Company achieved several benefits through the use of reflective practice in the form of these retrospectives – such as:
- Increased trust within the project team.
- More effective reflection on work performance.
- More effective project debriefings.
Through reflection over time, The Company learnt various lessons in terms of ‘common ailments’ regarding their Agile projects, and suitable cures for each issue.
‘Learning through reflection’ could have improved the outcome of this project in various ways, such as:
- Allowing the project team to achieve ‘double-loop learning’.
- Allowing team members to learn from their failures.
- Slowing the pace of learning, allowing proper comprehension.
- Allowing ‘deep’ learning to take place.