Lisa offers frameworks and questions for conducting pre-mortems and post-mortems for personal and professional projects.
In a lot of cases, a simple tweak or different approach can create a buffer around a project or make it more valuable to the people involved. The answers to the questions allow you to proactively plan and avoid pitfalls before you invest the resources to execute.
The pre-mortem happens before the project and involves a deep dive into the why and how. So the questions you ask of yourself, your thinking partners, and maybe the people involved are broken into 4 types: planning, execution, results, and communication. I’ll give examples of each but these should be tweaked for your unique situation and project.
Let’s start with planning. The planning questions might sound like:
- Project plan: What’s missing from the project plan? What areas are vague?
- Resources: Have we measured and allocated team members, budget, and tools accurately?
- Timing: Are deadlines realistic and tied to specific goals? Is there room for unexpected delays?
- Tasks: Are all necessary tasks planned, with dependencies and deliverables clearly articulated?
- Documentation: Is our documentation system adequate?
Then there are execution questions like:
- Workflow: Where are the weaknesses in our workflow design?
- People: How can we make team structure and hierarchy clear and consistent?
- Tasks: What makes tasks difficult to execute on a day-to-day basis?
- Delays: How can we better handle unexpected delays?
- Management: How does management impede workflow?
Then there are results questions like:
- Primary Goal: Why will (did) we miss our primary goal?
- Secondary Goals: Why will (did) we miss our secondary goals?
- Quality: How (will or did) tasks fail to meet delivery standards for quality?
- External performance: Why is this particular client or customer unhappy? What are some problems with our external performance metrics?
- Internal performance: What are some problems with the way we measure success internally?
And finally there are communications questions:
- Channels: What are the drawbacks to our main methods of communicating?
- Team: How (will or did) team members struggle with communications?
- Managers: How (will or did) managers struggle to communicate?
- Meetings: What’s wrong with the way we conduct meetings?
- External: How do we fail in our communication with stakeholders?
The post mortem questions are identical to the pre-mortem questions but they’re written in past tense. There are a few others that also apply like:
- Why was this project successful (or not successful)?
- If I could do this over, what would I do differently?
- What advice would I give to someone who wanted to replicate my results?
- What turned out the way I expected?
- What did turn out the way I expected?
- Did this require more inputs (meaning time, money, people, etc) than I expected?
- What lessons from this project can I apply to other current or future projects?
- What did I learn about myself from this project?
- What praise can I offer to those who collaborated with me?
- How will I celebrate the conclusion of this project?