Taking Care of Business – Using Post Mortem meetings

We all know about what makes successful projects in the consulting world.  There are many articles written about project management and how to be successful.  I am here to talk about failed projects and how to prevent them from occurring.  I am here to talk about preventive care.

In an article written in CIO magazine, a recent survey was conducted by a cloud performance management provider Innotas that revealed 55 percent of the 126 IT professionals surveyed between January and March 2015 reported they had a project fail.  A little over half of IT projects did not meet their success criteria in delivering their goals.

As the article in CIO magazine reveals, the problem isn’t necessarily tied to a shortage of project managers or technology tools to help organizations address their failed projects but often, it is tied to resource allocation and aligning those resources with business goals.

So, with the number of successful projects occurring over failed projects, how do you as a business leader ensure success?

One of the best ways of doing so by implementing preventative care measures to a project.

Just as a you would go to the doctor for an annual check-up, preventative care would also be considered a check-up for projects. These checks and balances aid in managing and aligning business goals to resource allocation.

Before we talk about implementing preventative care measures, let’s look at what happens when projects fail.

Many years ago, I was brought onto a large-scale IT project to upgrade an enterprise organization’s software application for an accounting system specific to the entertainment industry.  This project had the markings for success.  Resource funding as well as technology resource available to both consultants and client.  Everyone was on board to get the project started.

There were however, telltale signs that the project would encounter significant failing point during the project lifecycle.

When we talk about specific failures during projects, we can usually trace these back to one of the 3 triggers for projects.  Quality. Cost.  Schedule.

Often business leaders get caught up the cost and quality or process of the project without looking at the long-term outcome and whether this will affect the business value.

One of the biggest concerns that is often dismissed is when business leaders get caught up in the process and cost and don’t take into consideration the end results.  Getting caught up with the specific details of the project without looking at the long-range business goals is like not seeing the forest for the trees.

In this case, the business leaders were focused on the process that they overlooked what they were trying to achieve.  On top of this, there were internal bickering and fighting over what priorities needed to take place.  What started out as a project and team members with good intentions, got lost in the process.  The focus was on the detail and everyone forgot to keep their eye on the big picture.

At the end of this project, the consulting team went over budget with the client feeling their expectations were not met.  It nearly cost the client their software delivery and the trust between client and consulting company was raw with emotions.

Business and Project Priority

Now that we have examined the main evidence that led to this failure, let’s look at what could have been done to prevent these failures.

While communication is key to ensuring both client and team are on the same page at every project life cycle and the project meets all 3 triggers for success, the most important and I feel the most critical piece to ensuring communication is set up for success is implementing preventative care into projects.

Preventative care is a proactive process to identify opportunities for improvement rather than a simple reaction to identified problems.  This concept is also talked about in a 2008 article Preventative Action by leading Leadership and Management blogger Babou.

In his article, Babou talks about “root cause analysis combined with corrective action to help understand the cause of the deviation and potentially prevent recurrence of a similar problem”.

How is root cause analysis done at a project level?

Preventative Care – Post Mortem

One of the best ways to do so is by implementing a post mortem into a project.

A post mortem meeting is an honest and realistic approach to ensuring all team members including key business decision makers are on point and aware of deliverables, timelines and scope. It’s a refreshing way to take away valuable learnings from all participants.

Post mortems are often conducted at the end of a project to gain better understanding on what went wrong as well as what went right on the project.

Many agile projects implement post mortems at every sprint cycle to ensure team members stay on task and to give visibility to business leaders.  By having post mortems conducted at each project life cycles with clear agendas for team members to talk about, this is a simple and effective way for continuous improvements throughout the project.

As they say, an ounce of prevention goes a long way.

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