How to Run a Post-Mortem Meeting that Actually Improves Your Projects

Updated on: 11 January 2024 | 10 min read
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Have you ever finished a project and felt like it could have gone better? Maybe you missed some deadlines, went over budget, or encountered some unexpected issues. Or maybe you just want to celebrate your achievements and learn from your mistakes.

If so, you might want to consider running a post-mortem meeting. But how do you run a post-mortem meeting that actually delivers these benefits? In this blog post, we’ll show you how to prepare for, conduct, and follow up on a successful post-mortem meeting. We’ll also share some tips on how to avoid common challenges and pitfalls of post-mortem meetings. And we’ll show you how to use Creately to make your post-mortem meetings more effective and engaging.

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Post-Mortem Meeting Template

What is a Post-Mortem Meeting?

A post-mortem meeting is a structured discussion that takes place after a project is completed. It allows you and your team to review what went well, what went wrong, and what can be improved for future projects. The purpose of a post-mortem meeting is to learn from the successes and failures of the project or event, and to identify and document the key takeaways and action items. A post-mortem meeting can help boost the morale and motivation of the team, and to foster a culture of continuous improvement and feedback.

A post-mortem meeting can help you:

  • Identify the root causes of problems and find solutions

  • Recognize the successes and best practices of your team

  • Increase accountability and transparency among team members

  • Enhance communication and collaboration skills

  • Boost morale and motivation for future projects

  • Prevent repeating the same mistakes and improve your performance

Differences Between a Post Mortem Meeting and an Agile Retrospective

A post-mortem meeting and an agile retrospective are both ways of reviewing a project or a process after it is completed, but they have some key differences.

AspectPost-Mortem MeetingAgile Retrospective
TimingUsually at the end of a projectAt the end of each iteration or sprint
FocusWhat went wrong and how to avoid mistakesWhat went well and how to improve
FormalityFormal and structuredInformal and collaborative
ParticipantsMay involve external stakeholdersTypically involves only team members
ScopeComprehensive analysis of project outcomesContinuous improvement for the team
PurposeLearn from mistakes for future projectsEnhance team effectiveness and efficiency
Cultural ImpactCan be demoralizing and blame-orientedFosters positive and collaborative team culture
FrequencyOccurs at the end of the entire projectOccurs regularly after each iteration or sprint
Depth of AnalysisExamines challenges and lessons learnedIdentifies and implements specific changes

How to Prepare for a Post-Mortem Meeting

A post-mortem meeting is not something you can just wing. It requires careful planning and preparation to ensure that it is productive and constructive.

How to run a post-mortem meeting

Here are some steps to follow before you run a post-mortem meeting:

  • Define the scope and purpose of the meeting. What project are you reviewing? What are the main objectives and outcomes of the meeting? Who should attend the meeting? How long should it last? Make sure everyone is clear on these details before the meeting.

  • Gather feedback from all stakeholders. Ask everyone involved in the project to share their opinions, experiences, and suggestions. You can use surveys, interviews, or online tools like Creately to collect feedback. Try to get feedback from different perspectives, such as clients, managers, developers, designers, etc.

  • Analyze the feedback and identify key themes. Look for patterns, trends, and insights from the feedback. What are the common strengths and weaknesses of the project? What are the main challenges and opportunities for improvement? What are the best practices and lessons learned? Group the feedback into categories and prioritize them according to their importance.

  • Create an agenda for the meeting. Based on the feedback analysis, create a list of topics or questions to discuss during the meeting. Make sure the agenda is focused, relevant, and actionable. Avoid vague or irrelevant topics that might derail the discussion. Assign a time limit for each topic or question.

  • Prepare the materials and tools for the meeting. Gather any documents, data, or evidence that support your feedback analysis. Prepare any charts, graphs, or diagrams that illustrate your findings. Choose a suitable tool or platform to run the meeting, such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Creately.

How to Conduct a Successful Post-Mortem Meeting in 5 steps

Once you have prepared everything for the meeting, it’s time to run it. Here’s how you can conduct a successful post-mortem meeting:

Step 1 - Set the Ground Rules and Expectations for the Meeting

At the beginning of the meeting, remind everyone of the scope and purpose of the meeting. Establish some ground rules for respectful and constructive communication, such as listening actively, avoiding blame or criticism, focusing on facts not opinions, etc.

Step 2 - Facilitate the Discussion and Keep it on Track

Use your agenda as a guide to lead the discussion. Ask open-ended questions that encourage participation and reflection. For example: “What did we do well in this project?” “What were the main challenges we faced?” “How can we improve our processes or methods?” Keep an eye on the time and make sure everyone has a chance to speak.

Step 3 - Encourage Positive Feedback and Celebrate Successes

A post-mortem meeting is not only about finding faults and problems. It’s also about recognizing achievements and appreciating efforts. Make sure you highlight the positive aspects of the project and celebrate your team’s successes. Give praise and recognition where it’s due.

Step 4 - Identify Action Items and Assign Responsibilities

A post-mortem meeting is useless if it doesn’t result in any concrete actions or changes. At the end of the discussion, summarize the main findings and recommendations from the feedback analysis. Identify specific action items that can address the issues or improve the performance of future projects. Assign responsibilities and deadlines for each action item.

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Use the prioritization grid and the Kanban to track the progress of action items

Step 5 - Document and Share the Results of the Meeting

After the meeting, create a report or summary that captures the key points and outcomes of the meeting. Include any charts, graphs, or diagrams that illustrate your findings. Share the report with all stakeholders and follow up on the progress of the action items.

Benefits of a Post-Mortem Meeting

Here are some of the benefits of a post-mortem meeting for your team and your projects:

  • It can help you improve your project management skills and processes. By reviewing what worked and what didn’t, you can identify gaps, inefficiencies, or errors in your project management methods. You can also learn from best practices and apply them to future projects.

  • It can help you foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. By encouraging feedback and reflection, you can create a learning environment where your team can grow and improve. You can also foster a culture of experimentation and innovation, where your team can try new ideas and approaches without fear of failure.

  • It can help you build trust and collaboration among your team members. By sharing experiences and opinions, you can increase transparency and accountability among your team members. You can also build trust and rapport by acknowledging achievements and resolving conflicts.

  • It can help you increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. By listening to your customers' feedback and expectations, you can understand their needs and preferences better. You can also improve your products or services by incorporating their suggestions or addressing their complaints.

Avoiding Common Challenges of Post-Mortem Meetings

A post-mortem meeting can also have some challenges or pitfalls that might hinder its effectiveness. Here are some of them and how to avoid them:

  • Lack of participation or engagement: Some team members might be reluctant or hesitant to share their feedback or opinions, either because they are shy, afraid, or indifferent. To avoid this, make sure you create a safe and comfortable space for everyone to speak up. Use icebreakers, games, or polls to warm up the atmosphere. Ask questions that are relevant, specific, and personal to each team member.

  • Blame game or finger-pointing: Some team members might use the meeting as an opportunity to blame or criticize others for the problems or failures of the project. This can create a negative and hostile environment that damages the morale and productivity of the team. To avoid this, make sure you focus on facts not opinions, solutions not problems, and behaviors not personalities. Use positive language and avoid accusatory or judgmental words.

  • Groupthink or confirmation bias: Some team members might agree with each other too much or too easily, either because they want to avoid conflict, conform to social norms, or confirm their own beliefs. This can lead to poor decision-making, lack of creativity, or missed opportunities. To avoid this, make sure you encourage diversity and dissent among your team members. Seek out different perspectives, opinions, and experiences. Challenge assumptions and test hypotheses.

  • No follow-up or action: Some team members might forget or ignore the results or outcomes of the meeting, either because they are busy, distracted, or unmotivated. This can result in wasted time, resources, or efforts. To avoid this, make sure you document and share the results of the meeting with all stakeholders. Assign responsibilities and deadlines for each action item. Monitor and track the progress of the action items.

Tips for Running Effective Post-Mortem Meetings

Here are some additional tips on how to run effective post-mortem meetings:

  • Make sure your post-mortem meetings are run regularly and consistently. Don’t wait until the end of a big project to run a post-mortem meeting. Run them after every milestone, phase, or iteration of your project. This way, you can catch issues early, make adjustments quickly, and keep your team aligned and motivated.

  • Run the post-mortem meeting as soon as possible after the project is completed. Don’t delay or postpone running a post-mortem meeting. Run it as soon as possible after the project is completed, while the memories and emotions are still fresh. This way, you can get more accurate and honest feedback from your team.

  • Have a clear agenda and structure. Don’t run a post-mortem meeting without a clear agenda. Have a plan for what topics or questions you want to cover, how long you want to spend on each topic or question, and what outcomes or actions you want to achieve from the meeting.

  • Run post-mortem meetings with a facilitator or moderator. A moderator can guide the discussion, keep it on track, ensure everyone’s participation, resolve any conflicts, and summarize the results.

Running a Post-Mortem Meeting with Creately

Creately is an effective visual collaboration tool that helps you run post-mortem meetings with ease. It helps you to,

  • Get a headstart on running the meeting with ready-made post-mortem meeting templates.

  • Create detailed agendas, discussion points by including notes, docs, links and attachments.

  • Collect feedback from your team using surveys, polls, comments, chat, etc.

  • Facilitate discussions using video conferencing with Creately for Microsoft Teams where you can share the workspace and edit it within the Teams app.

  • Create action items, manage projects and track tasks in the same meeting workspace.

Conclusion

A post-mortem can give you valuable insights into running your future projects successfully. Follow the tips and best practices that we have listed so that you can avoid lengthy discussions and run effective meetings where everyone is driven towards the same goals.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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Author

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Hansani Bandara Content Specialist

Hansani has a background in journalism and marketing communications. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.

View all posts by Hansani Bandara →