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”.

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.

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.

Connected Analysis Frameworks

Cynefin Framework

The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.

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.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool in business. However, it is also well suited for personal use in addressing a specific goal or problem. A personal SWOT analysis helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

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.

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.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Comparable Company 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.

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.

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.

SOAR Analysis

A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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