How often do you hold project post-mortems?

I’m sure many of you have made mistakes in the workplace, or worked on projects that have failed for whatever reason.  But how many of you have subsequently conducted training on those mistakes, analysing what happened, why it happened and how the same mistakes can be prevented in future?

Obviously a key facet of knowledge management is the flow of information within an organisation, both good and bad.  Freedom of expression is key, but there seems to be a lack of regular dialogue concerning project failures, at least within the companies I have worked for.

As Einstein said, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The reason for this blog was a study I read last night concerning the training given to a bunch of firemen in America.  The researchers wanted to determine whether training that focused on the mistakes others had made in the past worked better at minimising errors than training that focused on best practice.  Two groups were given case study based training, with one group receiving case studies of failed missions, and the other receiving case studies of successful missions.  When the data was analysed it was found that the firemen that received the training on failure had improved judgement on missions than those that didn’t.

In a corporate environment this is often tricky because by pinpointing failures it can feel as though an employee is being picked upon.  Perhaps in an individual setting this can be intensified, but if the project team are given the opportunity to analyse performance collectively and improvements made then it could go a long way to stopping those failures occurring again.

It would be good to hear from you.  Does your organisation conduct training on failed projects as well as successful ones?

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3 thoughts on “How often do you hold project post-mortems?

  1. Conduct training? I’m not sure what’s meant by that. If I do something wrong, I try to rectify it if I can… if not, I move on. If I do something right, I will sometimes try to replicate it. For instance, one set of websites we have for the UK has worked really well so I’ve tried to apply the same concept to other countries.

  2. Well traditionally training is done using positive case studies. Research suggests however that negative case studies (ie failures) are better at improving performance from a training session.

  3. We don’t have any formal training here so it’s the whole notion is a bit alien to me. If we want to know something, we find out. If we make a mistake, we learn from it. Rightly or wrongly, that’s kind of as good as our training gets.

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