Like most tools available to PMP®s, the project post-mortem can be either more or less valuable depending on how effectively it’s utilized. And though teams may be diligent in reviewing past projects, they could be missing important details and opportunities for improvement. If your Project Team wants to increase the benefits gained from the project review process, see if you’re inadvertently hampering your own efforts with any of these common mistakes.
1 – Reviewing a project only once. To maximize the effectiveness of every project post-mortem, teams should periodically evaluate how their current efforts are faring against the issues they’ve historically faced. One problem is that the team’s structure may change and the individuals who were involved in addressing past challenges may not be responsible for those same areas in future projects. Documenting the findings of each project, and then taking a fresh look at those results from time to time, gives the group a way to look back with a wider view on the problems that have surfaced. Your team may discover trends across a number of projects—such as ongoing budget development glitches or customer feedback that continues to be less than ideal—that wouldn’t necessarily be evident if each project was only reviewed as a standalone entity.
2 – Leaving customer feedback out of post-mortem reviews. Along with metrics related to expenditures, timeframes, and objectives, input from stakeholders can also be useful in identifying where issues cropped up on previous projects and where the team has opportunities to improve its performance in the future. The feedback included in the review doesn’t need to be highly granular, but it should be comprehensive enough to paint a realistic picture of the concerns customers and sponsors raised during the project. Also, be sure to take a look at how your team responded to those issues so you can gauge if your internal processes are working as well as they can.
3 – Limiting the review to the internal project office. Many teams focus on inside perspectives, but discussions with vendors and sponsors about how a project progressed can also be instrumental in understanding what triggered specific problems. Because these collaborators will likely be involved in developing and implementing solutions to those same issues, it’s particularly important to maintain a dialogue across all project stakeholders during the post-mortem phase to ensure that everyone is on the same page when the next project begins.
4 – Delaying the review process. Project teams are busy and often have little reprieve between projects. But though post-mortems don’t need to happen immediately after project completion, Project Teams should at least prioritize the gathering of feedback and other data soon after activities have wrapped up. This way, the necessary data is readily available and everyone’s memories are still in tune with the project that’s being reviewed. This may mean that team members commit their thoughts and questions to paper before moving on to the next project, but taking the time early to jot down meaningful notes can pay real dividends later.
5 – Conducting reviews at only one level. Some teams conduct their post-mortem evaluations at the leadership level, while others assign junior PMP®s to the task. Both approaches are generally a mistake, as reviews done by any limited group is likely to miss important details that could be useful to the team later. A more effective strategy is to enlist a broad spectrum of the Project Team to help review each project. By bringing a cross-section of the team together, the combined knowledge and experience will provide greater opportunity to not only analyze trends but also to find creative solutions to difficult issues.