How to Perform a Post Mortem Project Review That Inspires Your Team

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How to Perform a Post Mortem Project Review That Inspires Your Team

Prepare your next post mortem project review with confidence by following these foolproof steps

Conducting a post mortem project review is always tricky business. Doing it in a way that inspires your team, rather than deflates your team, is something of an art form. You have to think about it as a cultural norm – creating a work environment where people trust each other enough to come to the table and critique their own work, and do it in such a way that they walk away from it feeling energized instead of deflated.

When you’re thinking about post mortem reviews, remember that it begins long before the post mortem exists. That means, during the project, focus on how you treat the team, how the team treats any bump in the road, and how you work together as a group. Are you willing to focus on solutions as opposed to playing the blame game? If you create a culture that expects to be able to critique itself, evaluate itself, and value lesson learned, then doing a post mortem project review at the end is pretty darn easy.

In this post, I’ve listed six steps to ensuring a successful post mortem project review. A success as in an open, honest and constructive review that focuses on how to utilize the positives in future projects and learn from the negatives.

How to perform a post mortem project review that inspires: a six step process

1. Let your team know what to expect at the end

Let your team know at the beginning of the project that there will be a post mortem review at the end. Explain what to expect during the meeting and to keep in mind that it’s a tool for improvement. This will allow them to get comfortable with voicing their opinions throughout the process up to its completion.

2. Encourage small reviews and critiques during the project

Create an atmosphere of trust and candor throughout the project. Hold small meetings after milestones are accomplished and ask for opinions on how it could have been done better. You want to establish a culture that expects to critique itself, evaluate shortcomings, and learn from lessons along the way.  

3. Create a team mindset that works to find a solution

When there is a conflict or problem during the project, mediate the discussion by bringing the focus to the solutions. These experiences will prove useful at the post mortem project review, where the team can reflect on how they overcame an issue. This will leave your team walking away feeling accomplished and encouraged.

4. Develop a guideline for the meeting and ask for feedback

Put together a guideline a few weeks before your post mortem and send it to your team. Ask for feedback, questions, or if there is any particular subject they want to cover at the meeting. Transparency brings with it a sense of ease since everyone knows what they are walking into the day of the review.

5. Get a scribe to write minutes for the meeting

Having someone dedicated to taking notes in the meeting will help in three ways:

  • They provide a neutral presence that takes the pressure off your participants.
  • It saves everyone the burden of having to take down the minutes, which would hinder their participation during the actual conversation.
  • You can use the notes as reference in the future.

6. Lead by example with self-performance analysis

If your team still feels shy and too self-conscious to voice any real concern or issue, be the one who steps in and breaks the ice. Give a critique of your own performance, and what you could have done better. Also, don’t be afraid to voice a critique of another person. Focus on the possible solutions and preparation for the future.

Remember that a successful post mortem project review starts now

If you’re looking to conduct a post mortem for an upcoming project, begin the process of ensuring an easy meet by starting at the beginning. It will likely influence a better working relationship with your team that wouldn’t exist otherwise. If you follow these steps, you’ll have a much better chance at seeing your team leave with their heads held high.

You know what you’re doing, but wouldn’t it be nice to have help?​ Let’s get your business organized and tackle your future ROI together. Schedule a FREE no-obligation call with me.

Mari Anne Snow
Mari Anne Snow
Mari Anne Snow is a highly-skilled change management professional with over 20 years experience utilizing technology to support non-disruptive change. A dynamic strategic planning speaker and thought-provoking writer, she is CEO and co-founder of SophiaThink and SophiaThink’s Blog. Her firm teaches clients the best ways to use the latest technologies to maximize team performance and business collaboration. Mari Anne is also an adjunct professor at Bentley University and Suffolk University; co-host of Positive Business radio with Patricia Raskin (WPRV AM790) and an advisor to several start-ups.
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