Project post mortems are a common occurrence in project offices. Successes and glitches are examined and the impacts of various strategies on each specific project are examined. These project-specific evaluations are incredibly useful, but savvy Project Teams know the importance of augmenting them with yearly reviews that look at a wider scope of the team’s activities. Day-to-day operations, from the way the project office’s members work together to how the team procures vendor assistance and other necessary support, affect the Project Team’s efficiency and ability to successfully execute the projects it manages.
As the year winds down, take the time to pull your project management team together and see how operational activities were carried out. Be candid about where waste and inefficiencies exist, as well as where the Project Team has opportunities to improve going forward.
Capital and per-project budgets are often handled separately as part of a post mortem, so use the yearly review to do a broader look-back on the Project Team’s operational budget performance instead. Are there support vendors you could use more efficiently, or contracts that could be negotiated for better cost savings? It may also be possible to share more of the burden for operations support—off-site document archival, outside technology services, etc.—with another department. Other groups could be facing some of the same expenditure issues, and it could be a benefit to everyone to ask around. If nothing else, you may discover a lower-priced vendor than you’re using now or an alternative in-house solution that still fits your needs.
Were the team’s project management training opportunities relevant and effective? It’s important that education not be focused solely on the competencies needed to support the particular projects each team member handled that year. In addition to specific project management disciplines, training should also address emerging best practices, new thought leadership principles, operational skills—time management, financial management, etc.—and even supervisory techniques and performance evaluation skills for those team members responsible for managing others.
Look back, too, to see if PMP®s were offered a mix of individual and team training sessions. Each educational environment has its advantages, and each offers opportunities to develop different types of skills.
Did the project office find itself lean on labor resources during the year? See where shortages existed—project management leadership skills, support functions, technical expertise, technology assistance, or another area. Consider whether it makes sense to adjust the team’s workload to fit the staffing you have available and recalibrate how or when new projects are taken on and executed, or if there’s a potential to hire additional employees to supplement the team’s roster next year. Is it possible to recruit help from other departments, or to share workloads for specific functions? Interns, part-time or temporary workers, and consultants may also be an option depending on your Project Team’s needs and funding availability.
Busy Project Teams, socked with work and with little free time available for non-project activities, sometimes find they’ve overlooked any number of opportunities to recognize team members for their efforts. See if your team has fallen into this trap and then create a plan with a dual strategy to address the situation. First, consider if it would be appropriate to organize a year-end event to celebrate the team’s collective successes. You can then add a few special presentations as part of the festivities to recognize those individuals who went beyond the call of duty in support of the Project Team’s customers or its internal team members. The second part of the approach involves setting regular intervals next year to identify high performers and give them some much deserved—and timely—recognition.