No project is absolutely successful or unsuccessful.
Even if it seems unlikely that the project can get better (or worse), there are always lessons to be learned.
Therefore, the project is analyzed afterwards.
The autopsy meeting is not an investigation. This is an investigation to discover all the lessons for the future—not an opportunity to blame or put people in place.
This is an opportunity to ask questions: What have we accomplished? More importantly: can we do better next time?
To help your team make the most of your project post-event meetings, we have shared some basic guidelines. Check them out below to make your next autopsy the most efficient one to date.
What is a project post-mortem?
Project post-mortem analysis is a meeting usually held at the end of the project to evaluate its success and defects. The goal is to discover insights that will enable you to implement better processes for future projects.
A productive post-event meeting is an opportunity to completely unravel the trajectory of the project and dig deeper into why things unfold in their way.
The core advantage is to improve efficiency. If done well, you will find bottlenecks in the process and improve the workflow.
In addition, the post-event meeting will improve:
- Morale – Celebrating your victory in an after-event meeting can help your team unite and create a friendship.
- communication – When you unpack what is right and what is wrong, you can expect to find communication gaps that may hinder the project.
- transparency – The post-event meeting invites everyone to share their views on the entire project. This will create a transparent environment where you can find the core of the problem.
Post-mortem meeting documents
In order to prepare for the post-mortem meeting, you will need three key documents:
- Pre-conference questionnaire – The questionnaire gives your team time to evaluate the project as a whole. Finally, you will be able to view the questionnaire to determine the mode and talking points of the meeting.More about Here.
- Agenda – Setting an agenda is essential to ensure the smooth progress of the meeting. If not, you may not have time to solve the most important problems.For more information on how to organize the agenda, please skip to This part.
- Meeting worksheet – The worksheet will help organize your team’s feedback into the correct categories during the meeting. For example, your worksheet should include sections for success, failure, obstacles, and solutions.
- Review file – After the meeting, draft a document covering the main points of the discussion and the steps that can be taken in the future.More about Here.
How to run a fruitful project post-mortem meeting
1. Make post-mortem analysis a standard part of your team’s process.
After-event meetings should be an important part of your team’s process—whether it’s a large project or a small project. Most teams run them for large projects with clear start and end dates, but they are equally useful for smaller or even ongoing projects.
Although “post-mortem” literally means After death, Your team does not have to wait until the end of a large, long-term project to get value from retrospective evaluation.
When you flesh out the project timeline during the start-up phase, insert small post-mortem analyses at key milestones. These pulse checks will give your team the opportunity to better understand the progress of the project-and hope to spot potential problems before they cause permanent damage.
Once the project is officially over, don’t wait too long to arrange the final autopsy, otherwise people will move on mentally. In fact, when you develop a complete project plan, you should arrange a post-mortem analysis, so everyone knows that this is the expected part of the project summary.
2. Send a post-event questionnaire before the actual meeting.
The meeting itself should not be scheduled for more than one hour. Not everyone has the opportunity to speak, and some smaller (but still important) issues may not get much discussion time. Frankly speaking, not everyone is willing to speak in such forums.
Using the pre-conference questionnaire means that everyone in your team has an equal opportunity to share their thoughts, and there are no stray details under the radar.
The questionnaire also provides an opportunity for people to organize before the meeting. People can gain insight into the reasons why certain things happened (or didn’t happen), so they can bring reasons and potential solutions to the meeting—not just mistakes or sloppy theories.
For example, if a project requires creative people in your team to work around the clock to complete their deliverables on time, why does this happen? Is the project schedule set incorrectly? Is the inexperienced person assigned the wrong task?
The responses to the questionnaire should inform the agenda of the post-event meeting, and focus the discussion on the most influential issues. However, the questionnaire also means that “smaller” things will not be overlooked during the complete autopsy.
3. Select the moderator to keep the meeting going normally.
The goal of post-project analysis is to constructively evaluate the work done by the project team and what could have been better.
In order for this discussion to be productive, someone needs to keep the conversation civilized, focused and moving forward. This is where the meeting host comes in.
Set up a moderator before the face-to-face meeting, who can stick to the agenda and lead the discussion when it gets out of control. The moderator does not have to be a project manager or a member of the leadership team, they just need to be able to take responsibility easily.
4. Set a clear agenda.
With so many details to be covered in such a short period of time, the post-event meeting can easily go off track. Help control the discussion by setting a clear meeting agenda in advance:
Start with retrospective The core goals of the project, briefly review the goals and indicators established at the start. This part should not exceed five minutes and should serve as a quick review of what your team is starting to do.
Briefly review the results. After completing the main goals and objectives, please take a few minutes to review the final results of the project. This should be a direct assessment of whether the project meets the team’s success indicators. Did you reach the goal you set?
understand deeper why or why not. Now is the time to delve into why the project ended in this way and how the team members felt about it. This discussion should occupy most of the meeting time.We have explained in this section how to organize your exam [jump to last section].
5. Make sure to close the loop.
The autopsy meeting is only one step in the autopsy process.
The final result of the questionnaire and meeting should be a post-event document summarizing the conclusions of the survey and the main points of operation in the future.
This survey is not just about what is going well, but about what will change in the future and how? What led to the great success that we can bottle and use in other projects?
Distribute the autopsy summary document to the participants and have them sign. Then distribute the summary of future projects within the department to everyone.
Project post-mortem question
- Quantitative issues in evaluating project implementation.
- Qualitative issues beyond data.
- Subjective questions to understand the employee’s point of view.
So what exactly should an autopsy check? There are several different cross sections to construct your query. The basic categories of queries are planning, execution, results, and communication.
In each category, you should ask Quantitative, Qualitative, with subjective problem:
Evaluate quantitative issues in project execution.
These are your standard yes or no questions.
- Has the deadline been met or missed?
- Did we provide all the deliverables listed in the project scope?
- Have the predefined success indicators been achieved?
- Did you follow the outline workflow and procedures?
- Is there a budget overrun?
When you look at the project from this perspective, a key potential question is always: Is the plan good? Did we follow the plan? Is the plan bad? why?
All the quantitative questions you ask should eventually come back to this overall theme.
Qualitative issues beyond data.
These open-ended questions should go beyond hard data and planning to evaluate projects.
- Do we deliver the work to the high standards that we and our customers expect?
- Does the customer agree?
- Do people feel that they have the resources, information, and support they need to complete their tasks?
- Are activity standards or mission expectations improperly defined or communicated?
In quantitative and qualitative investigations, specify what works and what does not work.
For example, do you have customers who share the delivery date of their role but do not have a built-in review time? Maybe the customer sent them on time (according to the project plan), but they were not enough to meet the needs of the project.
Or, will the lack of supervision by the account manager cause the new PPC campaign manager to overspend the client’s advertising budget?
A thorough understanding of the details will help determine the source of the problem.
Understand the subjective issues of the employee’s perspective
Subjective questions can help assess how your team members feel and can help leadership identify disturbing signs of burnout and fatigue as early as possible.
These questions also let the leadership know which processes are best for their team and help them plan future projects.
- What do people like most and dislike the most about this project?
- How about working with customers?
- What changes will they make to such projects in the future?
- How to work more smoothly between this client or certain departments in the future?
- Do you want to work on a similar type of project again? If not, why not?
After-event meetings will help your team continuously improve your process. Remember, post-mortem analysis that does not affect future actions is a waste of time. With this in mind, be sure to follow your insights in order to produce better results in subsequent projects.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated to be comprehensive.