You may have poured the champagne and toasted your new project launch, but that doesn’t mean the project management process is finished. Celebration is certainly appropriate at this point. But don’t forget to follow up the festivities with a thoughtful and thorough review.

Experienced project managers are familiar with the impulse to move on to the next assignment when a project is completed. Stakeholders may see a project management review as unnecessary or low-impact. As a result, the review may be done hastily or not at all. In fact, an effective post-mortem will have tremendous impact on the organization’s ability to improve. Project management is a process of continuous learnng and modification. A
fundamental understanding of your success factors and the bumps in the road that may have compromised the project is essential to making better decisions the next time around. It’s the difference between doing the same thing that led you astray before, and taking a more effective path when you’re confronted with a similar decision.

It’s almost as bad to conduct a project management review and then file the results away, never to be seen again, or hand the results over to the project manager with no follow-up action plan. Effective project management depends on gathering information and putting that information to use.
Work with your project manager on the following steps to get the greatest benefit from your project management review:

Step 1: Gather input

Be sure to conduct a 360-degree review, gathering input from all affected parties in the organization. Talk to the software developers, project managers, stakeholders, and subject matter experts, as well as end users and those responsible for communication and change management. Ask for their perspective on what went right and what went wrong in the project management process.

Step 2: Assign responsibility and create individual action items

Were there problems in development, project management, or communication? What will the responsible parties do differently next time? The purpose is not to assign blame, but to improve. Look to the best practitioners of after-action reporting: the U.S. military. Military leaders review and prepare a factual account of what went right and wrong, and then integrate the results into future strategy and training. They understand full well that this follow-up can literally be a matter of life and death. Lives may not hang in the balance at your company, but effective project management review can certainly affect employees, customers, and investors.

Step 3: Share information

After individual action plans are established, follow up to make sure the knowledge and plans are communicated to everyone involved. Your best efforts won’t stick unless information is driven down to the grass-roots level. See that individual project management information becomes tribal knowledge.

Step 4: Review periodically

Make sure that the fixes were implemented and that they really worked. Keep following up as the project becomes standard practice. By all means, celebrate the completion of your project. But as you’re celebrating, keep in mind that the opportunity to review and improve is never really done.

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