How to Host a Good Project Post-Mortem Meeting
Every project has its beginning and end. Oftentimes, project management teams are more excited at the end than they were at the beginning. This doesn’t come as a surprise since project ends mean sending the invoice, getting paid, and going to the next project.
However, if you look more closely, how the project wraps up is actually crucial and useful in terms of getting an insight into how well the team did in the project. It’s an opportunity to look into where things went wrong, what goals were achieved and what were not, and how they can improve for the next batch of projects.
In project management, this all-important activity takes place as part of the post-mortem meeting.
What is a post-mortem meeting?
A post-mortem meeting is also called debrief or retrospective. Project management teams can use it as a tool to uncover insights that can help them improve their internal processes, update their workflows, and provide better services and deliverables to their clients. This is the perfect time to bring the team together and analyze the different aspects that are significant to the project.
What are the benefits of a post-mortem meeting?
Ideally, there should be no excuse for not holding post-mortem meetings. In fact, the company or organization itself should take the lead and initiative in conducting such meetings. This is because the benefits are tremendous and these include the following.
- Becoming more efficient. Because the team reviews every detail of the project’s lifespan, they will uncover problems and find solutions to make their processes more efficient.
- Becoming forward-looking. Though mistakes are to be noticed, this will also encourage the team to look forward, instead of linger on their mistakes. They will learn to live past their mistakes and learn from them to become better project managers and teams.
- Providing a means to share information internally. Working as a project management team is as important as working with the entire organization. By doing a post-mortem meeting, teams can find ways to communicate information internally which means with the entire company.
- Opening the avenue to celebrate success. Post-mortem doesn’t only talk about the negatives. It also celebrates the positive aspects of the project which can encourage the team to work even harder in the coming projects.
How to prepare for the post-mortem meeting
There are not a lot of things to do to prepare for a post-mortem meeting. The most basic is to organize the agenda for your meeting.
- Organize the meeting agenda. Like any other evaluative meeting, the agenda for a post-mortem meeting should be planned and organized ahead of time. This sets the direction and ensures that everything is covered. The prepared agenda is the guide that makes sure nothing is missed.
- Conduct the meeting right after the project’s conclusion. Postponing the meeting only leads to forgetting important aspects and points and to not having one at all. The best thing to do is to schedule the post-mortem meeting immediately after the project concludes. As the adage goes, strike while the iron is still hot.
- Keep a good mindset. What most people think is that this type of meeting is held to point out mistakes and call out the people responsible for them. This shouldn’t be the mindset of the team. Instead, they should focus on reviewing the work done to better improve the team’s performance. It should lead more towards learning than blaming.
- Prepare a questionnaire which should be filled out prior to the meeting. This is very important in order for the team to save time. The questionnaire should contain standard questions that seek to delve into the strengths and weaknesses of the project.
- Keep the atmosphere relaxed. It is scary enough to know that this is a post-mortem meeting. And if the moderator doesn’t make everyone feel relaxed at the onset of the meeting, then, the desired results will not be achieved. When people are scared and nervous, their creativity and thinking skills are altered. As a result, the meeting fails.
How to conduct the meeting itself
When the meeting day comes, there are also important things that the moderator should do in order to get the desired outcome.
- Encourage everyone to participate. The moderator should have the right skills set to bring everyone to talk. Oftentimes, those who are very quiet are the ones thinking more deeply and have the answers to the questions.
- Leave gadgets behind. Gadgets are helpful to one’s work. Unfortunately, they can also be a distraction. It is important for moderators to emphasize that gadgets, including laptops, should be left behind. They are allowed to take notes but they have to go by the traditional pen-and-paper way.
- Provide specific to-dos for the team. Teams should always think that a post-mortem meeting aims to provide actionable ways to improve their performance in future projects. These should be specific to-dos and not just generic ‚Äòdo better next time’ or ‚Äòimprove your work’ kind of thing. These should be actions like ‚Äòprovide a project management tool that uses Kanban views for easier task assignment’.
- Start the meeting with the positive points. This is important to help make everyone open up. It makes them feel good listening to their strengths and, thus, results in the team’s higher morale. Additionally, teams should not be restrictive in sharing the positive points. Everything, no matter how small they are, should be communicated.
- Never blame or name names. Remember, a post-mortem meeting is about improving and not blaming. If anyone starts the blame game or naming names, the moderator should be alert to cut that person off and remind him of the path the meeting should be taking.
- Meeting minutes should be recorded. This is for documentation purposes. If there is a need to go back to a certain point in the future, there is always a reference available.
There are so many benefits of a good post-mortem meeting which is why it should not be forgone for whatever reasons. Project management teams should take advantage of this type of meeting as a way for them to improve their performance which, in turn, benefits them and the company.
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