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How to combine post-project reviews with lessons learned

Review as you go

Post-project reviews come, as you’d expect, at the end of the project. They are often the first time that the project stakeholders have had the opportunity to comment on the project management processes.

How often have you sat in a post-project review and heard someone say that they thought the risk management process was too bureaucratic, or that there wasn’t enough project communication?

The stakeholders on your next project will benefit from these insights, but for the stakeholders on this project, it’s too late. You can’t go back in time and make project communication better, or strip out some of the annoying administration when it comes to managing risk.

The project team for this project won’t see any of the benefits that you have identified. And frankly, the next lot might not either, because businesses aren’t that good at passing on lessons learned. Chances are, your team members will do exactly the same next time round because they will have forgotten the good advice that the post-project review uncovered.

So what can you do about it? Regular lessons learned meetings, combined with your post-project review will give your project stakeholders better service and create a culture of continuous process improvement.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Little and often

Hold lessons learned meetings throughout the project at regular intervals. Once a month should do it, but if it’s a project that is only going to last a few months then you can give some thought to when is going to be most appropriate.

Normally that would be towards the end of the planning stage and again during the delivery stage, but pick some milestones that make sense for your project team.

2. Schedule reviews early

Get the reviews in the diary now and explain to the team what they are for. This will mean that they start thinking about what to bring up in the meeting. You can even circulate an agenda and discussion questions well in advance and encourage people to make time to plan their contribution.

Of course, if they come to you with their thoughts prior to the meeting and they’ve got some good ideas, you don’t have to wait until the formal review to act on them!

3. Act on the output

There is no point in having mini-project reviews during the project if you don’t do anything about the feedback you get. Otherwise stakeholders and team members will resent having to turn up to meetings when they give you lots of ideas for improvements and nothing gets done. That’s a waste of everyone’s time (and a waste of good ideas).

Use the last part of your review meeting to discuss what lessons have been learned and which ones you can action. There may be some points raised that you really can’t do anything about, and you’ll have to leave those to one side.

However, you can create an action plan for those improvements that you can put in place. Allocate owners and a timeframe. Then next time you all get together for a review meeting, you’ll be able to report back on what was discussed last time and the improvements that have been made since.

4. Review with your stakeholders

Don’t forget the formal post-project review at the end of the project. On the agenda you can include a summary of all the things that have been brought up at the lessons learned meetings throughout the project and the improvements that have been made as a result. This will show stakeholders that there is a culture of continuous improvement but also that they have been listened to.

People who have been listened to are generally more positive about the project as they feel engaged and valued, so you may find that this approach makes your post-project review easier!

While post-project reviews are an essential part of assessing a project, I hope this has shown that you can also carry out mini-reviews during the project lifecycle to ensure that any improvements than can be identified are identified and acted on.

It can only make the project better and help to engage the team, so why not give it a go?

Author bio

Elizabeth Harrin is a career project and programme manager with a decade of experience in healthcare and financial services. She is Director of  The Otobos Group, a project communications consultancy and author of Social Media for Project Managers and the award-winning blog A Girl’s Guide to Project Management.

Find her on Twitter @pm4girls

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin is a career project and programme manager with over a decade of experience in healthcare and financial services. She's also a content strategist, award-winning blogger and author of several books about project management. Find her online at A Girl's Guide to Project Management

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