As we near the end of 2020, it is time to begin planning year-end team meetings and events. Look Back-Look Forward is a productive capstone team activity that you can do with your team. This is a perfect time to look back and review what has happened, learn from it, and then use that information to look forward and create a plan for the next year.

Reflection allows us to celebrate successes and learn from the past with a fresh perspective. Both individuals and teams benefit from taking a pause to look back at their year.

But looking back only tells us where we have been. The next step is to look forward to where we want to go next. In this step, we set goals, visualize our desired future, and begin to imagine where we hope to be in the future.

Both processes are important, and they blend nicely together in a capstone exercise. One process without the other is less complete. When done in tandem, the forward decisions are made with the wisdom attained from the look back.

There are many ways you can help individuals, teams, or even organizations transition into a new year.  Here is a simple process that you can implement for this purpose.

Instructions for a team:

  1. Identify one area to focus on. For example, team communication, team goals, or team engagement.
  2. Prior to the meeting, ask each team member to look back at the year and think about how the team did in that focus area over the last year. Ask each person to come with a story that exemplifies where the team was successful in this area and another story where the team was challenged.
  3. At the meeting, share the stories starting with the successes. Document these and celebrate each story.
  4. Then, ask each person to share their stories about the challenges and document the key challenges. Look for themes or patterns.
  5. Focus on the learning that took place with both the successes and the challenges, and document what you learned.
  6. Look forward and brainstorm what the team wants the next year to be like. How can they use what was learned in the past year to set themselves up for success?

Note: This could be a shorter discussion, or you could expand this into a goal and objective setting workshop.

Instructions for a quick team activity:

  1. Prior to your meeting ask each person to come up with a picture to represent the last year and another picture to represent what they hope for the following year. (You can decide if they do this about themselves or if this is their perception of the team.)
  2. In a round-robin, each person shares their pictures and explains what it represents.
  3. Document the key ideas.
  4. Debrief by asking, “What insights do you have as you look back and forward?”


Taking time to learn from our past (Look back) and then use that to plan the future (Look forward) is an excellent end of the year activity. This exercise can be done at the individual level or at the team level.

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.

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