Are project post-mortems important, and any advice for doing them well?

tpatterson

I'm wrapping up a long project and want to make sure we sum up what went well, what didn't. What's the best way to do that?

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Ty Kiisel
Vote Up (41)

Winston Churchill said, "All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes."  Here are four of the top dos and don'ts for a successful project post-mortem:

1. Establish a venue for sharing lessons-learned: It doesn't matter whether you call it a post-mortem, a project review or a project retrospective, most organizations don't do them - but they should.

 

2. Share what has been learned: Although most organizations don't bother with a project retrospective, those that do don't always create an environment that encourages real learning - and even fewer shares what was learned.

 

3. Don't make learning the next corporate initiative: It's natural for organizations to formalize the learning process into the next corporate project. Although the natural learning process should be encouraged, "corporate" is all too often the same as "bureaucratic," which employees will be more likely to avoid.

 

4. Don't make learning a one-time activity: Project learning should be ongoing and interactive- don't let it become an isolated activity that happens rarely.

JOiseau
Vote Up (38)

Another thing to remember in your project post-mortem: Don't forget the little guy! A successful project may involve participation and buy-in from staff members at all levels, from C-level on down to clerical staff. And more frequently than most people realize, it's the people in the rank-and-file that can see first-hand where those great ideas fail in their actual execution.

jimlynch
Vote Up (35)

Hi tpatterson,

Here's a good article that contains review questions that you might find helpful in assessing your project:

http://michaelgreer.biz/?p=161

Snippet:

"It’s important for project managers and team members to take stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the next project. Typically such reviews are called post-project reviews or “post mortems.” I recommend a two step process for conducting these reviews:

First, prepare and circulate a whole bunch of specific questions about the project and give team members time to think about them and prepare their responses individually.
Next, hold a meeting and discuss the team’s responses to the questions. The result of this discussion is often a list of “Lessons Learned.”
The benefit of the first step, done individually by team members, is that it allows the quieter, more analytical people to develop their responses to the questions without being interrupted by the more outgoing, vocal types who might otherwise dominate in the face-to-face meeting. Also, it allows everyone the time to create more thoughtful responses.

So what would be on the list of questions? I’ve provided some of my favorites below."

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