A postmortem is a “structured learning process designed to continuously evolve plans” (Sundheim, 2015). It’s the process of gathering immediate feedback, throughout the lifecycle of a project/initiative or at the very end, on what worked well, what didn’t, and recommendations on how to improve in the future. It involves collecting feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure you have tapped into the insights and intelligence of all involved. This can include involving not only team members, but clients and partners as well, to ensure you receive full-circle feedback that will help you continuously improve your initiatives.
This process consists of 4 simple steps:
- In reflection of the initiative, identify what worked, what didn’t work, and recommendations for improvement
- Categorize each statement to indicate which lesson type it correlates to
- Comment and discuss the statements and recommendations
- Identify action items to refine your internal and external processes
A postmortem helps you identify what needs to be improved, and the steps necessary to refine your internal and external processes. Every project is an opportunity to learn lessons that you can apply toward future ones (Baig, 2015). “Don’t reinvent the wheel - build upon past successes” (Herman, 2017).
A postmortem is vital for continuous improvement, and essential to accelerating projects, igniting innovation, and meeting difficult objectives. Bringing a wide range of stakeholders together drives alignment on values and purpose, and therefore creates higher performing teams/organizations (Sundheim, 2015).
Conducting regular postmortem is not only important internally, but can be extremely useful to conduct with clients and partners, as their feedback and recommendations provide an outside and end-user perspective. Their feedback may provide rough criticism; however, mistakes can be forgiven and it's what you do after that makes a lasting impression. Your willingness to accept critical feedback, implement their recommendations, and continually improve will separate you in a crowded field (Rubb, 2016).
1) NOODLE: What worked well, what didn’t work well, and what are your recommendations?
2) TAG with the following tags to indicate what lesson type your feedback corresponds to:
3) COMMENT: Ignite deep discussion to ensure everyone understands each of the insights/statements, and has an opportunity to share their thoughts on the input.
4) ACTIONS: Identify action items to refine your internal and external processes.
- List of candid insights about what worked well and what did not throughout the initiative
- Specific recommendations to make future initiatives more successful
- Comments providing deeper insights into the success of the initiative
BENEFITS & IMPACT
This exercise will enable:
Quality – Capitalize on your stakeholder’s insights, to ensure you have all the information required to make informed, high quality decisions. Builds higher-performing teams by continuously improving future initiatives.
Efficiency – Engage busy stakeholders when it is convenient for them to contribute - 24/7, reducing meeting times and bringing the right people into the process.
Engagement – Provides a safe space for stakeholders to reflect on the experience, provide candid feedback and recommendations, and share in rich discussion.
Agility – Ensure "Lessons Learned" by engaging stakeholders who bring multiple, diverse perspectives to the table to drive innovative recommendations for future initiatives. Focus on the right things going forward and maximize the return on your valued and limited resources.
Baig, M. (2015). The Importance of Debriefing and How to Get Started. GovLoop. https://www.govloop.com/community/blog/importance-debriefing-get-started/
Herman, M. (2017). The Importance of Debriefing Events. Executive Secretary Magazine. http://executivesecretary.com/the-importance-of-debriefing-events/
Rubb, E. (2016). Debriefing Events: Why it’s so Important and 8 Ways to do it Right. Propared. https://blog.propared.com/debriefing-events-8-reasons-why-you-need-to-be-doing-it
Sundheim, D. (2015). Debriefing: A Simple Tool to Help your Team Tackle Touch Problems. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/07/debriefing-a-simple-tool-to-help-your-team-tackle-tough-problems