How to Conduct a Project Post Mortem

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How to Conduct a Project Post Mortem

How to Conduct a Project Post Mortem

Becca Bonny

Yay! Congratulations, your project has concluded. Now what?

A project’s end typically leaves project managers feeling one of three ways: satisfied, indifferent, or uneasy. It is important to conduct a project post mortem and analyze the why behind each of these initial reactions and what you can do to make the satisfied emotions more frequent than the indifferent or uneasy ones.

1. Feeling satisfied.

Your project: It was delivered on time and on budget, addressed the identified KPIs, and has been approved by the client. Now you don’t need to do anything else, right? Wrong. It’s your responsibility to conduct a project post mortem to ensure this satisfied feeling is a standard for the majority of future projects.

2. Indifferent.

Your project: It may have been delayed, required extra budgetary approval, addressed some of the client’s KPIs, but ultimately has been approved by a happy client. Although the client was satisfied in the end, it is worth conducting a post mortem to identify any elements which could use improvement.

3. Uneasy.

Your project: It went drastically over budget, was not delivered on-time, did not address KPIs, and, ultimately, was not approved by the client. These types of projects require a deep conversation and understanding and should be included in your post mortem analysis.

Project Post Mortem Process: Get Your BEARINGS

The goal of a post mortem is to understand the project as a whole. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with any warning signs that were exhibited during the project, so that you can be prepared for risk factors earlier in the next one. When you conduct a project post mortem it’s a good idea to get your BEARINGS by using these steps in your process:

Breakdown the project by phase. At Bartlett Interactive, our website project development process is categorized by Discovery, Design, Development, and Deployment. You can break up your project in a way that fits your business/team, but the important part is piecing the project into smaller parts and evaluating them individually.

Examine the hours allotted to each task within the particular phases of a project. Make note of which tasks went over budget, then calculate the total overage per phase.

Assess the overages with your team and understand why each task went over. Did a particular team member experience a delay? Was the task’s description confusion or was there a misunderstanding regarding how the task was explained? Evaluate the tasks with the utmost scrutiny and frame these questions as a conversation.

Record your findings. All comments should be recorded for future usage. Ensure they are in a place that is easily accessible and have a naming convention in place. For example, “2021-5-20-BartlettInteractive” could be used.

Investigate your team member’s responses from the assessment step to see how you can mitigate certain risks in the future. Does this team member work better on projects within a particular industry? Were any of the scopes underestimated? Take your team’s responses and find a way to better guide future projects when you’re formulating your Risk Assessments and Resource Allocation steps.

Never accuse. Everyone must realize that projects are team efforts at the very core of their nature. If a post mortem is constructed to criticize team members for any tasks within the project, this will create more problems than it would solve. Instead, a one-on-one conversation may be warranted after the team post mortem discussion.

Give praise! Celebrate! Evaluate the wins within a project. Even if a project went south, make sure to recognize individuals who exceeded expectations.

Strategize. The point of these project post mortems is to learn and grow, and prepare for future projects

Project Post Mortem FAQ/Best Practices

Q: How do I know what to ask my team during the assessment step?

A: You should have a standard set of questions for each project post mortem. If you Google “What to Ask During a Project Post Mortem,” you’ll be presented with a myriad of great questions to ask your team. However, you’ll need to decide which are most relevant for the project. The meeting should be concise, so choose appropriate questions.

Q: Who should attend the project post mortem?

A: All team members involved in the project, no matter how small or large their role was. You’ll want to make sure everyone is included and all of their opinions will be considered during the evaluation.

Q: How should the post mortem be conducted?

A: You’ll need an agenda and your set of questions, as well as a time limit. In person would be ideal, but again, this may depend on your business. The meeting should be conversational and not accusatory, but it is still a good idea to have this in person to see people’s immediate reactions.

Q: How should I give praise/celebrate the project’s wins?

A: Gift basket, free flex day, buy the office lunch, etc.

Though hindsight is absolutely 20/20, taking a deeper dive when you conduct a project post mortem allows your team to continuously improve project outcomes and ultimately increase client satisfaction.


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