Post-Mortem Analysis

Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Post-Mortem AnalysisDescriptionAnalysisImplicationsApplicationsExamples
1. Define the Event (DE)Post-Mortem Analysis begins by defining the event or incident that requires analysis and review.– Clearly describe the nature and scope of the event, including when and where it occurred. – Identify the key stakeholders involved and affected by the event. – Establish the objectives and goals of the post-mortem analysis.– Provides a clear understanding of the event’s context and significance. – Sets the scope and expectations for the analysis process.– Analyzing a software outage that disrupted a web service. – Reviewing a security breach that compromised customer data.Event Definition Example: Defining a data center outage that led to service disruptions.
2. Data Collection (DC)Collect relevant data and information related to the event for a comprehensive analysis.– Gather data through various means such as incident reports, logs, interviews, and eyewitness accounts. – Ensure that data collection is systematic and includes all relevant details and timelines. – Preserve evidence and documentation related to the event.– Provides a factual basis for analysis and helps in reconstructing the sequence of events. – Ensures that the analysis is based on accurate and comprehensive information.– Collecting incident reports and log files related to a network outage. – Interviewing team members who were involved in a project that experienced delays.Data Collection Example: Gathering logs, communication records, and eyewitness statements regarding a security breach.
3. Root Cause Identification (RCI)Identify the root causes or factors that contributed to the occurrence of the event.– Apply investigative techniques to identify the underlying reasons behind the event. – Use tools such as the “5 Whys” technique to probe deeper into the causal factors. – Distinguish between immediate causes and root causes.– Enables the precise identification of the fundamental issues that led to the event. – Helps in understanding why the event occurred and how to prevent similar occurrences.– Determining the root causes of a project delay that resulted in missed deadlines. – Identifying why a manufacturing process malfunctioned, leading to a product recall.Root Cause Identification Example: Concluding that a software vulnerability was a root cause of a security breach.
4. Impact Assessment (IA)Evaluate the impact and consequences of the event on the organization, stakeholders, and operations.– Assess the extent of damage, losses, and disruptions caused by the event. – Identify the affected stakeholders, including customers, employees, and suppliers. – Analyze the financial, operational, and reputational impact of the event.– Provides a comprehensive view of the event’s consequences and associated costs. – Helps in prioritizing recovery and mitigation efforts based on the severity of the impact.– Evaluating the financial losses incurred due to a data breach. – Assessing the operational disruptions caused by a supply chain interruption.Impact Assessment Example: Analyzing the customer trust and reputation damage resulting from a product quality issue.
5. Lessons Learned (LL)Document and extract valuable insights and lessons from the event for future improvements.– Identify the key lessons and takeaways from the event, both positive and negative. – Document best practices and areas for improvement based on the analysis. – Propose recommendations and action items to prevent similar events in the future.– Facilitates organizational learning and continuous improvement by capturing knowledge from the event. – Provides actionable insights to enhance processes, procedures, and risk mitigation strategies.– Documenting best practices for incident response based on a cybersecurity breach. – Proposing process improvements to prevent project delays.Lessons Learned Example: Identifying the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures after a data breach incident.
6. Action Plan (AP)Develop a clear and actionable plan to address the root causes and implement preventive measures.– Specify the corrective actions required to address the identified root causes. – Assign responsibilities, timelines, and priorities for implementing the action plan. – Ensure that the plan includes preventive measures to avoid future occurrences.– Provides a structured and comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes and preventing recurrence. – Ensures accountability and follow-through on corrective actions.– Creating a project plan to enhance cybersecurity defenses after a security breach. – Developing a supply chain risk mitigation plan following a disruption event.Action Plan Example: Specifying the steps to patch software vulnerabilities and improve security protocols after a breach.
7. Implementation (IM)Execute the action plan and monitor progress to ensure that corrective actions are carried out effectively.– Assign responsibilities to individuals or teams for each corrective action. – Track the progress of implementation and ensure adherence to timelines. – Communicate the status of corrective actions to relevant stakeholders.– Ensures that the action plan is executed effectively and within specified timelines. – Allows for real-time monitoring and adjustment of actions as needed.– Carrying out software updates and security enhancements as part of a cybersecurity action plan. – Monitoring supplier relationships and implementing risk mitigation measures in a supply chain plan.Implementation Example: Rolling out a revised production process to address root causes of product defects.
8. Evaluation (EV)Assess the effectiveness of the action plan in preventing similar events and improving overall processes.– Measure and evaluate the impact of corrective actions on preventing recurrence. – Use data and performance indicators to assess the effectiveness of actions. – Compare post-implementation results with pre-implementation data to verify improvement.– Determines whether the action plan has been successful in addressing root causes and preventing recurrence. – Validates the effectiveness of the corrective actions and their impact on outcomes.– Assessing whether the new cybersecurity measures have prevented further security breaches. – Evaluating whether supply chain risk mitigation measures have enhanced resilience.Evaluation Example: Comparing product defect rates before and after process changes to verify improvement.

Understanding a post-mortem analysis

In business, a post-mortem analysis identifies the causes of an event to understand why it occurred and better prepare for future projects. 

Post-mortem analyses tend to be performed at the end of a project, but larger or more complex projects may necessitate that they be held on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

More frequent meetings enable the team to course correct and avoid important issues being overlooked.

Some teams skip this process because of time or resource constraints or an incorrect assumption that a post-mortem analysis does not contribute to the company’s bottom line.

When done correctly, however, post-mortem analyses are critical to the development of process improvements and best practices that can be used to repeat successes in the future.

Instead of rushing from one project to the next to generate more revenue, the company must take the time to examine all aspects of the project lifecycle.

Each member of the project team – including stakeholders and clients – should also feel free to note any issues or problems in a collaborative environment. 

How to conduct a post-mortem analysis

The most effective post-mortem analyses are also the most organized and occur while the details of the project are still fresh in the mind of participants. 

Step 1 – Create the agenda

The agenda only needs to be created once and can be tweaked for any future analysis. It should detail:

  • What went well (the wins).
  • What did not work well (the losses).
  • Whether the project accomplished what it set out to do (the outcomes).
  • Suggestions for improvement, and
  • Wrap up.

The business can also send a questionnaire to those involved to better understand what worked and what didn’t.

The questionnaire can be sent before the analysis starts to save time and its anonymous nature increases the quality of the feedback.

Step 2 – Select a moderator and notetaker

The moderator is often the project manager, but a meeting facilitator can be selected if the business desires more neutrality.

In any case, the moderator’s primary role is to keep the meeting on topic, set out the agenda, and provide a recap of the project.

Notetakers are especially important for recording details if tech such as smartphones or laptops are banned from the post-mortem analysis.

Step 3 – Establish rules 

The moderator then establishes some basic ground rules that help the team avoid straying off-topic. Examples include:

  • Tech that could distract the meeting is not permitted.
  • Keep the discussion objective and free from blame.
  • Maintain a polite and positive atmosphere.
  • Each person shall be given a set amount of time to speak uninterrupted, and
  • Feedback should be specific, actionable, and constructive.

Step 4 – Host the meeting

The meeting then proceeds according to the agenda. In the context of project management, questions usually relate to:

  • Planning – was any aspect of the plan too vague? Were budgets, personnel, and tools allocated correctly?
  • Execution – where did the workflow fail or where was it not adequately documented? Did any project team member have trouble meeting timelines set in the plan?
  • Results – did the project meet its primary objective? Was the client happy with the results? Would the team otherwise consider the project a success?
  • Communication – was the project manager able to communicate with the team effectively? Could the meetings have been more effective? Were there too many meetings or too few?

Step 5 – Celebrate wins and conclude

To conclude, the moderator should make time to move around the room and attribute wins to each individual. The moderator should be specific and thank the team member for their contribution to help them feel valued.

Once the meeting is over, a copy of the main takeaways should be sent to the team. There may also be action items or clarification on what the team can expect when it comes time to work on the next project.

Case studies

  • Software Development Project:
    • Understanding: The team developed a new software feature, but users reported multiple bugs after its release.
    • Post-Mortem Analysis:
      • Agenda: Review the software development process, testing phase, and user feedback.
      • Moderator and Notetaker: Lead developer as the moderator, QA engineer as the notetaker.
      • Rules: Avoid blaming specific team members, focus on the process, and be open to feedback.
      • Meeting: Discuss the development process, identify gaps in testing, review user feedback, and discuss communication breakdowns.
      • Conclusion: Celebrate the successful launch, address the identified gaps, and implement changes for future projects.
  • Marketing Campaign:
    • Understanding: A marketing campaign did not achieve the expected conversion rate.
    • Post-Mortem Analysis:
      • Agenda: Review the campaign strategy, target audience, and execution.
      • Moderator and Notetaker: Marketing manager as the moderator, digital marketer as the notetaker.
      • Rules: Focus on objective data, avoid subjective opinions, and encourage constructive feedback.
      • Meeting: Analyze the campaign’s reach, engagement metrics, audience feedback, and budget allocation.
      • Conclusion: Celebrate the team’s effort, identify areas of improvement, and strategize for the next campaign.
  • Product Launch:
    • Understanding: A new product launch did not meet sales targets.
    • Post-Mortem Analysis:
      • Agenda: Discuss product development, market research, pricing, and promotion.
      • Moderator and Notetaker: Product manager as the moderator, sales lead as the notetaker.
      • Rules: Stick to facts, avoid assumptions, and promote a collaborative environment.
      • Meeting: Review product features, customer feedback, competitor analysis, and promotional activities.
      • Conclusion: Recognize the team’s hard work, learn from the feedback, and refine strategies for future launches.
  • Customer Support Initiative:
    • Understanding: A new customer support initiative did not reduce the ticket resolution time as expected.
    • Post-Mortem Analysis:
      • Agenda: Review the new processes, tools used, and feedback from support agents.
      • Moderator and Notetaker: Support team lead as the moderator, senior support agent as the notetaker.
      • Rules: Encourage open communication, avoid defensive attitudes, and prioritize actionable feedback.
      • Meeting: Discuss the new support process, tools’ effectiveness, agent training, and customer feedback.
      • Conclusion: Praise the team’s dedication, identify gaps, and make necessary changes for better efficiency.
  • Event Organization:
    • Understanding: An organized event did not see the expected attendee turnout.
    • Post-Mortem Analysis:
      • Agenda: Review event promotion, target audience, logistics, and feedback from attendees.
      • Moderator and Notetaker: Event coordinator as the moderator, logistics manager as the notetaker.
      • Rules: Maintain a positive attitude, be open to feedback, and focus on solutions.
      • Meeting: Analyze the promotion channels used, event timing, venue selection, and attendee feedback.
      • Conclusion: Acknowledge the team’s effort, learn from the feedback, and plan better for future events.

Key takeaways:

  • In business, a post-mortem analysis identifies the causes of an event to understand why it occurred and better prepare for future projects. 
  • Some teams skip the post-mortem analysis because of time or resource constraints or a belief that it does not contribute to the company’s bottom line. However, these analyses are essential to improve processes and develop repeatable best practices.
  • The five steps of conducting a post-mortem analysis include creating the agenda, selecting the moderator and notetaker, establishing rules, hosting the meeting, and concluding by celebrating wins.

Key Highlights

  • Understanding a Post-Mortem Analysis:
    • Identifies causes of events to prepare for future projects.
    • Typically conducted at the end of a project, but complex projects may require more frequent reviews.
    • Some teams skip this process due to time constraints or overlooking its value for process improvements.
  • How to Conduct a Post-Mortem Analysis:Step 1 – Create the Agenda:
    • Outline the agenda detailing what went well, what didn’t, project outcomes, suggestions for improvement, and a wrap-up.
    • Use questionnaires sent to participants to gather feedback anonymously.
    Step 2 – Select a Moderator and Notetaker:
    • Moderator (usually the project manager) keeps the meeting on track and provides a recap of the project.
    • Notetaker records details, especially if tech is banned during the analysis.
    Step 3 – Establish Rules:
    • Set ground rules to maintain focus and objectivity.
    • Ban distracting tech, keep discussions blame-free, maintain a positive atmosphere, provide uninterrupted speaking time, and offer specific, constructive feedback.
    Step 4 – Host the Meeting:
    • Address questions related to planning, execution, results, and communication.
    • Discuss aspects like vague plans, workflow issues, meeting effectiveness, and client satisfaction.
    Step 5 – Celebrate Wins and Conclude:
    • The moderator attributes wins to each individual, acknowledging their contributions.
    • Provide a copy of the main takeaways to the team and clarify action items or expectations for the next project.

Connected Analysis Frameworks

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Monte Carlo Analysis

The Monte Carlo analysis is a quantitative risk management technique. The Monte Carlo analysis was developed by nuclear scientist Stanislaw Ulam in 1940 as work progressed on the atom bomb. The analysis first considers the impact of certain risks on project management such as time or budgetary constraints. Then, a computerized mathematical output gives businesses a range of possible outcomes and their probability of occurrence.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

CATWOE Analysis

The CATWOE analysis is a problem-solving strategy that asks businesses to look at an issue from six different perspectives. The CATWOE analysis is an in-depth and holistic approach to problem-solving because it enables businesses to consider all perspectives. This often forces management out of habitual ways of thinking that would otherwise hinder growth and profitability. Most importantly, the CATWOE analysis allows businesses to combine multiple perspectives into a single, unifying solution.

VTDF Framework

It’s possible to identify the key players that overlap with a company’s business model with a competitor analysis. This overlapping can be analyzed in terms of key customers, technologies, distribution, and financial models. When all those elements are analyzed, it is possible to map all the facets of competition for a tech business model to understand better where a business stands in the marketplace and its possible future developments.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Comparable Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

Business Analysis

Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

Financial Structure

In corporate finance, the financial structure is how corporations finance their assets (usually either through debt or equity). For the sake of reverse engineering businesses, we want to look at three critical elements to determine the model used to sustain its assets: cost structure, profitability, and cash flow generation.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Value Investing

Value investing is an investment philosophy that looks at companies’ fundamentals, to discover those companies whose intrinsic value is higher than what the market is currently pricing, in short value investing tries to evaluate a business by starting by its fundamentals.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Financial Analysis

Financial accounting is a subdiscipline within accounting that helps organizations provide reporting related to three critical areas of a business: its assets and liabilities (balance sheet), its revenues and expenses (income statement), and its cash flows (cash flow statement). Together those areas can be used for internal and external purposes.

Post-Mortem Analysis

Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.

Root Cause Analysis

In essence, a root cause analysis involves the identification of problem root causes to devise the most effective solutions. Note that the root cause is an underlying factor that sets the problem in motion or causes a particular situation such as non-conformance.

Blindspot Analysis


Break-even Analysis

A break-even analysis is commonly used to determine the point at which a new product or service will become profitable. The analysis is a financial calculation that tells the business how many products it must sell to cover its production costs.  A break-even analysis is a small business accounting process that tells the business what it needs to do to break even or recoup its initial investment. 

Decision Analysis

Stanford University Professor Ronald A. Howard first defined decision analysis as a profession in 1964. Over the ensuing decades, Howard has supervised many doctoral theses on the subject across topics including nuclear waste disposal, investment planning, hurricane seeding, and research strategy. Decision analysis (DA) is a systematic, visual, and quantitative decision-making approach where all aspects of a decision are evaluated before making an optimal choice.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Activity-Based Management

Activity-based management (ABM) is a framework for determining the profitability of every aspect of a business. The end goal is to maximize organizational strengths while minimizing or eliminating weaknesses. Activity-based management can be described in the following steps: identification and analysis, evaluation and identification of areas of improvement.

PMESII-PT Analysis

PMESII-PT is a tool that helps users organize large amounts of operations information. PMESII-PT is an environmental scanning and monitoring technique, like the SWOT, PESTLE, and QUEST analysis. Developed by the United States Army, used as a way to execute a more complex strategy in foreign countries with a complex and uncertain context to map.

SPACE Analysis

The SPACE (Strategic Position and Action Evaluation) analysis was developed by strategy academics Alan Rowe, Richard Mason, Karl Dickel, Richard Mann, and Robert Mockler. The particular focus of this framework is strategy formation as it relates to the competitive position of an organization. The SPACE analysis is a technique used in strategic management and planning. 

Lotus Diagram

A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Functional Decomposition

Functional decomposition is an analysis method where complex processes are examined by dividing them into their constituent parts. According to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), functional decomposition “helps manage complexity and reduce uncertainty by breaking down processes, systems, functional areas, or deliverables into their simpler constituent parts and allowing each part to be analyzed independently.”

Multi-Criteria Analysis

The multi-criteria analysis provides a systematic approach for ranking adaptation options against multiple decision criteria. These criteria are weighted to reflect their importance relative to other criteria. A multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is a decision-making framework suited to solving problems with many alternative courses of action.

Stakeholder Analysis

A stakeholder analysis is a process where the participation, interest, and influence level of key project stakeholders is identified. A stakeholder analysis is used to leverage the support of key personnel and purposefully align project teams with wider organizational goals. The analysis can also be used to resolve potential sources of conflict before project commencement.

Strategic Analysis

Strategic analysis is a process to understand the organization’s environment and competitive landscape to formulate informed business decisions, to plan for the organizational structure and long-term direction. Strategic planning is also useful to experiment with business model design and assess the fit with the long-term vision of the business.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF FrameworkBCG MatrixGE McKinsey MatrixKotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

Main Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top