Join Chris Croft for an in-depth discussion in this video Learning from your experiences, part of Project Management Simplified.
- The final step, Step 12, of project management is to do a review of your project. What have we learned? People often avoid Step 12 for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they haven't got time for it. Maybe it went pretty well, they think they don't need to do a review. Maybe it went really badly, they don't want to do a review. Maybe they think that there's never going to be another project similar to that one so there's no point in reviewing. But all of those reasons are false. It's really, really important to do a review. You may think you'll remember what happened, but in a year or two's time, you'll have forgotten the learning points from your project.
What about all the other people who weren't there when those things happened? If the organization's going to learn, everyone needs to review their projects and write down what they've learned. Therefore, it's management's job to make sure reviews happen. Project managers left to their own devices will probably avoid reviews because they don't personally gain from them. So we must have reviews stored centrally. When you do a review, what should be in that? I would say really, there are just three questions you should ask when you do your project review.
These are Good? Bad? and Better? The first question is, what was good about the project? Now you may say why would we want to ask that question? But I think there's two reasons why it's important to ask what was good. The first is that things that have happened that were good can be repeated in future projects. Maybe there was one person on your project team who's really clever and did some great things. We want to share that with everyone in the organization. Maybe there was just something that happened that was lucky that was good. Write everything down so you can repeat it next time. The other reason for asking what was good is that we can thank people.
The good thing about projects is that they do finish and there is a chance to thank everybody and make sure that they all feel that they've had the recognition that they deserve. That's the first question. What was good about the project? We then go on to the second one. What was bad about the project? Clearly, we need to think about what were all the problems that happened so we can make sure we don't fall for those same problems when we have future projects that are similar. Very important not to blame people for mistakes that have happened.
Everybody's done the best they could. The project was difficult. The main thing is, what can we learn from it? What can we pass on to future people? That's the second question. What were the bad things? You may not want to use the word "bad." You may want to just say, "What are the learning points?" or something like that. The third question is, what could we have done better? Now this is quite different to the previous two because the good and bad questions were things that actually happened that were good and bad. But this third question, what could we have done better, is about things that we didn't do on the project but looking back with perfect hindsight we wish we had done.
Perfect hindsight lasts for about two weeks. You've got a couple of weeks after the project to look back and think how we could have done it even better and make a note of everything you can think of for projects that are to come in the future. Ask those three questions, get everything written down, get it all stored in a central place where people can access it. These reviews will feed back into two parts of the planning process. Step Two was to list the tasks. When you're listing the tasks, it's a good idea to look back through the reviews and particularly to look at what was good and what could we have done better and take those ideas and include those into the tasks that you're going to do in your project that you're just starting out on.
The second part of the process where the reviews feed back into is risk analysis, Step Eight. That's where when you're doing you're risk analysis and you're thinking what might go wrong. You have a look at the reviews of similar projects to this one and you look at what was bad, what went wrong on those projects. The question, what was bad, feeds back into the risk stage at Step Eight. There are two points where the risk feeds back into the project planning process. Very, very important.
So thinking about the real project you've got now, what I would urge you to do is don't avoid doing a review. It's absolutely vital. Get the team together maybe over a meal, some nice situation that you could set up for them. Get some pizzas in or go out to a restaurant or whatever. Have a review, ask those three questions. But whatever you do, don't avoid doing a project review.
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- Defining project scope
- Deciding how to list tasks
- Estimating costs and time
- Planning for risk
- Staying on budget