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Project Post-Mortems: Learning from Successes and Failures

Project Post-Mortems: Learning from Successes and Failures

Going through a post-mortem review is critical for learning and growth. Reviews should be completed on not only failed projects but successful ones too. Even successful projects have fail points to learn from and will help you develop a good understanding of where improvements can be made.

But how do you complete such a review? Keep reading to find out.

Gather Information

Start by gathering all project information including the plans, documentation, schedules, research, budgets, performance metrics, and a list of people involved.

Organize this information in a clear and concise way. You want it to be easy to go over. You should also invite all employees who worked on the project to your review meeting. Their insights and thought processes while working on the project post-mortem are invaluable.

Define Objectives

Once you have all relevant information collected, you begin to define objectives such as what you want to take away from this meeting.

Would you like to strictly Identify where success or failure was found? Or would you like to take a deep dive that sheds light on how every cog in the project came together?

The more detailed your objectives are, the more likely you are to learn from the project's outcome.

Review Project Goals

What were you trying to achieve with this project? Were you trying to lock down a new client? Was the project's purpose to enter a new market?

Reviewing project goals is important because sometimes, you go into a project with one goal and discover that you achieved something unrelated. For example, your project's main goal might have been to catch leads from an older demographic but instead, you caught leads from a different geographical demographic.

These small failures can be seen as successes and diagnosing what caused it to happen helps you understand how to complete your original goal and grow in other sectors.

Identify and Discuss Successes

Next, you want to take a deep and detailed look at your project and record every aspect that could be considered a win.

Once you have identified your successes, discuss the path that was taken to help make the success happen. Who came up with the idea? What thought process led them to think it would work? How was it implemented? Was timing a factor? Or maybe environnement?

Often, the small details are the most important because the butterfly effect is incredibly prevalent in Project success.

Identify and Discuss Failures

You will want to complete the same process with project failures. Identify where things went wrong and discuss it with the team.

The most important part of reviewing a failed project is diagnosing the reason failure occurred so that you can avoid it in the future.

Reflect on Lessons Learned

In the reflection stage of your review, you and your team will take a deeper dive into the hows and whys of your diagnosis.

Discuss challenges that were faced, the lessons that were learned, and how improvements can be made.

Reflect and Make a Plan

Here, you are reaching the end of your project post-mortem review.

You and your team will reflect on the project as a whole and the lessons that were learned. Take a look at all the points that were made and start creating a plan for future projects.

Your plan should include processes to continue and processes to retire. Your plan should also include ways to change and improve processes that had little effect on the project's outcome because you want every portion of the project to be as strong as possible.

During this step, project management software is incredibly useful. Accelo offers great software that many project consultants rely on but can still be easily implemented by project leaders.

Follow Up

Last but not least, once you have implemented your new plan and let it take its course, you are going to review its effectiveness.

If your plan was effective, great! If it was not very effective, that's okay too. You can do another post-mortem review and continue tweaking the fine details. Furthermore, the longer you continue this process, the more likely it is that your projects will rarely fail.

Wrap Up

Completing a project post-mortem review is one of the best things you can do to achieve success. These reviews provide valuable insights (and maybe a few facepalm moments), but ultimately, you walk out of the meeting with a new found confidence.

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