Let’s revisit the post-mortem, a classic project management tool that aims at helping you learn from what went well and what went wrong.
Post-Mortems Are Not Just For Single & Completed Projects
As suggested by Kyle Eliason, the post-mortem technique can be applied for other endeavors than a single project, such as any of the other ongoing operations.
You can use it in a recurring manner that fits with your processes, such as every week, month, quarter or year. You can have different types of post-mortems for each of those frequencies. Of course, an annual post-mortem will tend to be more strategic and macro-oriented than a weekly one.
Agile teams hold retrospectives (different names, same thing) in order to inspect and adapt their way of working.
Ben Linders, author of “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives” also shares valuable tools to run these meetings here, like a check-in with one word that summarizes how team members are feeling and asking several “whys” to get to the root of the matter.
Esther Derby and Diana Larsen also wrote a book on the topic called “Agile Retrospectives” in which they give advice on how to hold those kinds of meetings effectively, and make sure they’re not a waste of time (which can happen if not correctly done).
Post-Mortems are also crucial for Remote Teams
Many startups like ours have employees that work remotely, that are not physically present at every meeting. In this case, Post-Mortems are very important to improve and strengthen communication within your team, to ensure that the information that is being shared is homogenous and that everyone is on the same page and up to date.
To conduct successful post-mortem meetings with your remote teams you should make sure that you have an efficient teleconferencing process. Here is an article that will give you expert tips on how to successfully hold a teleconference meeting.
Not Group Therapy
Be careful that your post-mortem meetings don’t become group therapy. Of course, this meeting can be helpful for individuals to vent, but the goal is to make it constructive.
Maybe the project has been a total disaster, but it would be useless to complain without being constructive. Let’s keep in mind rule #3 and stay solution-oriented. Some people may come up with relevant shortcomings but find it harder to come up with fixes, so you should be ready to delve further and ask questions to generate solutions as well.
A Last Few Tips
As suggested by Leslie Wolf, having an external facilitator and a scribe, especially for a large project, provides a neutral presence so that everyone is on equal footing and in the same role as a participant.
Even if the idea of inviting clients to your post-mortems is a frequently debated topic, having them can have a lot of benefits. As mentioned by Simon Heaton: “Client inclusion is an absolutely essential part of a post-mortem and without their participation, it’s very likely your team will overlook some crucial inefficiencies in your processes.” Furthermore, another benefit of inviting them to this meeting is to show how much you value their business and feedback, and prove you wish to improve over time.
We’d love to hear about you. What are the lessons learned you keep hearing over and over again? Let us know in the comments!
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