Call 'em whatever you want: Lessons Learned, Project Audit, Closure Survey, Post Mortem. Capturing what went well - and what didn't go so well - at the end of a project can be a daunting task. First, you're asking people to remember back months (sometimes years) to share detailed information that can be reused. Second, you're balancing the "need to know" with the "need to share" and all the privacy issues that go along with how much information is too much information. And finally, you're asking people to be honest. Brutally honest. Yes-honey-that-dress-does-make-you-look-fat kind of honest.
A recent experience made me analyze my thoughts and approach about managing a project post-mortem. Here are a few tips that hopefully will help yours go more smoothly:
- Encourage people to think about the post mortem at the beginning of the project. Phil Gerbyshak's Book 10 Ways to Make It Great encourages people to write their own obituaries so they'll start living their lives now toward that end. The same mindset should apply to projects. Identify what success looks like up front and start working toward that end.
- Document Lessons Learned throughout the project life cycle. Encourage people to keep a running file of the good, the bad, and the ugly from start to finish. It seems like amnesia runs rampant in the last month of a project.
- Try a Start-Stop-Continue approach. Nothing earth-shattering here... have people document what they wished they had done, what they shouldn't have done, and what they did right. It tends to keep things fairly objective.
- Encompass project processes, individual performance, and the project solution in your post mortem. You want to make sure you've covered the end-game, how you got there, and who got you there in your lessons learned.
- Maintain a level of interdependency about your post-mortem. You didn't manage your project segmented and divided; don't handle your post-mortem that way. Allow for cross-pollenation of ideas and feedback across work streams and stakeholders
- Don't hold your post-mortem interviews in an office overlooking a cemetery. Trust me on this one... it's just bad karma.
It's good to be back on the blogosphere after a week off. Good luck with your projects... from start ... to finish.