Don’t forget the Post Mortem

It is good to be back in the normal routine.  June is always a hectic month and this June has been the most hectic I can ever remember, but it is all good.  Those who know me realize that baseball kicks in during June with the NCAA college playoffs and my team, the Vanderbilt Commodores, won the national championship this year.  I was able to keep up most of my normal work pace, but now things have returned to a sense of “normalcy” for a while.

Post Mortem is a Latin term that refers to many things.  In the medical word the post mortem is an examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death. (Wikipedia)  I remember the program Quincy from my younger days.  Jack Klugman played Quincy, a medical examiner, who was always doing interesting things, most of them surrounding a post mortem.

In other contexts the post mortem has similar meanings and we will focus on one of those meanings today.  When I talk about post mortem we will refer to the following definition:

  • a project post mortem occurs at the conclusion of a project; this step will allow the participants to determine what went well, what did not, and what can be learned from the respective project

I spent many years in the consulting engineering world and we always talked about the post mortem, but rarely did we ever do this.  I’ll spend some time today talking about why you should do your own post mortem and what the benefits would be if you did.

Let’s look at the core components of a project before we leap to the post mortem.  The typical components of a project include the following: (per PMI)

  • project conception and initiation
  • project definition and planning
  • project launch or execution
  • project performance or control
  • project close (post mortem)

Most of us will spend our time defining the scope or definition of work and even more will overly focus on doing the work.  These steps are both crucial and essential, but without the post mortem we lose a great opportunity to gather what we have learned, both good and bad, in order to maximize our learning and applicability for the next project.

In conducting a useful post mortem, here are a few questions I would recommend you ask and get answers for in your post mortem:

  1. What was the original intent of this project?
  2. How much of the original scope of the project was completed successfully?
  3. What percentage of the budgeted resources were needed to complete this project?
  4. What worked best on this project?
  5. What was most challenging on this project?
  6. Would we consider doing this type of project again?
  7. What would we do differently in this type of project should we do one again?

Project management is a staple in our economy and our world.  Getting things done on time, in budget and without delay is essential to any firm’s success.

The post mortem is a key way to determine what worked well in your project.  It is also a great method to determine how to continue to improve how we do what we do.

I’ll be back next time to talk about how you can improve the projects you do.  You might even say we will discuss lean project management when we next get together.

Have a great week and take the time to reflect on how things are going.  You’ll be glad you did.