How to nail project post-mortems

From boosting team spirit to discovering more productive ways of working, there are plenty of positives to breaking down a project once it's out the door – even if it was a success.
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A project you've been working on has finished; it went exactly as planned, hit all its targets and everyone involved is happy. What's next? Well, conduct a post-mortem analysis, of course. Analyzing what went well, why and where there's room for improvement will help you understand and replicate what works, innovate future ways of working, build team morale and increase overall efficiency. Here's how to get the most from your post-mortem analysis. Remember, don't wait too long after the project ends – get started right away. 

Before the meeting

• Identify your moderator.

Start by designating a moderator who will act as a neutral voice and steer the conversation back to the topic should it start to stray. Ideally, to avoid biased opinions, pick someone who has knowledge of the project but wasn't deeply involved.

• Prepare and send out a survey. 

Plan well in advance and send out meeting invites with a set duration. About a week before, gather feedback through a survey or questionnaire. The aim is to give everyone a voice, collate information and use it to influence what will be discussed during the meeting. It also gives people time to prepare and think about various aspects of the project. 

• Outline an agenda.

Depending on project size, there's likely to be a lot to discuss within one meeting. As such, having a clear agenda (as with most meetings) helps keep things on track. Not sure where to begin? Start by highlighting the project deliverables, what was achieved, what could've been improved, questions and key learnings. 

During the meeting

• Come prepared.

You've sent out the agenda. Now, allow everyone to have a say, share their suggestions and focus on things that worked well. Drilling down into what worked will uncover insights that can be used in upcoming projects or even folded into the way you do things as a business. 

• Take – and analyze – notes.

Dedicate one person to take notes. At the end of the meeting, go through the notes and use the information to analyze what made the project a success. Document everything discussed, organize it and have it available to be accessed by everyone on the team. 

After the meeting

• Define actionable next steps.

Finally, use the notes, feedback and information gathered to define – as clearly as possible – where you go next. Chalk out actionable next steps and shape up processes and systems that will make future projects more seamless and even more profitable.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more insights, analysis and inspiration, sign up here.

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