Why Even Successful Projects Need a Post-Mortem

Posted April 14, 2017 in , by

Completed projects offer invaluable insights for future projects and processes, but how do we gather the information? One of my favorite ways is to hold a post-mortem meeting after a significant project is complete.

A post-mortem meeting allows the team time together to evaluate the project’s successes and challenges. These meetings are a safe platform to discuss openly and candidly:

  • What went well
  • What didn’t go well
  • Lessons that can be implemented across the team for optimization and efficiency

Gather key team members from a recent project and sit down to discuss the project together. Here are a few of my favorite questions to get the discussion started:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go well?
  3. What should we continue doing?
  4. What should we do differently next time?
  5. What can we use in future projects?

Now that you have the questions to ask, here are a few tips to have a successful post-mortem meeting:

  1. Come with an open mind. Post-mortems are about coming together as a group to discuss how the team approached and executed a project. This meeting is not about placing blame if something went wrong, but are an opportunity to think about the project differently and learn from what was done.
  1. Come with ideas in mind. Having ideas drafted for each question helps start and contribute to the dialogue that progresses throughout the meeting. Whenever we schedule a post-mortem, I always set aside time to think about what I could have done differently for the project and then what could have been done differently, collectively. This list is a great jumping-off point for the conversation when you pull together the team.
  1. Be candid and stay positive. Valuable insights can come from having a candid conversation with the team members who worked on the project. It’s important to establish that the meeting is a safe spot for teammates to express thoughts without judgment and figure out positive, proactive takeaways.
  1. Create actionable insights. Come to your meeting with ideas and insights that can influence projects in the future, especially from your discipline. This goes back to the idea of lessons—take each project as a learning experience and create your actionable insights on what you can do differently or contribute differently to further the success of future projects.

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