After your organization implements a project, does the project owner engage the team in a project debrief? If not, then your organization can be losing out on valuable lessons. Learning from project debriefs results in improvements in future projects.
A project debrief consists of answering two questions: (1) What worked well during this project (or what went right), and (2) What could have been improved (or what went wrong)?
Answers to the first question highlight best practices and proven solutions for reuse on subsequent projects or implemented into operations. Answers to the second question provide an opportunity to learn from mistakes. By sharing information about things that did not work well during the current project, the organization can reduce or eliminate these things on subsequent projects.
There are five topics that should be included in every project review. They include:
- Adequacy - how "adequate" were the project's personnel, time, equipment and money?
- Goals - were the project's goals met including financial goals and defined project process?
- Project tracking - how well was the project tracked, especially in terms of milestones, communication plans, timeliness of key decisions and status reporting?
- Team performance - how well did the team perform together (what were the behavioural styles), how well did the team progress through phases of team development and how was the team recognized for their efforts on the project?
- Effectiveness of actions - how accurate was the deliverable? Was it timely? Was the deliverable based on assumptions or factual data? What tools were used to ensure that proposed actions will represent an improvement over baseline?
Ultimately, the goal of lessons learned is to sustain the project's gains. Sometimes iterations may be required to improve a process, but as long as the organization is continuously moving toward improvement, then the project's efforts will result in positive gains.