Having worked on projects both professional and personal, I am grateful to think back over them with mostly fond memories of overall success. A few wildly successful ones, a few mostly successful ones, and only a handful that would fall into the “um … yeah” bucket. For this, I am grateful. Not only for my mother who instilled in me a natural “plan-y-ness,” but also for a company of strong project managers to work with and for. One project sticks out as less than successful.
here’s the scoop …
I was asked to join a group dedicated to reviewing different aspects of the company all from the customer’s perspective. The team was not only cross departmental but included some really strong people. While discussions were energetic, involved, and really good conversations, the group never seemed to be going anywhere. Finally, after the leader of the group was moved into a different role, the group fizzled.
post mortem …
As I study project management, one of the aspects that was a pleasant surprise for me was the idea of conducting a “post mortem” on projects. While called by different names, the importance of reflecting on the project – successes and failures – is a running theme (Allen & Hardin, 2008; Greer, 2010, & Portny, et al, 2008). This is something I stress in my current job as a consultant, so I am happy to see it carry over to the project management world. While it is common to reflect and learn from your mistakes, it is also important to reflect on your successes. What aided that success and can be replicated in future projects or across the company?
where we fell down …
This was something I had not done for the previously mentioned customer experience group. As the group fizzled without a formal closure, I had not taken time to reflect on that experience. No time like the present:
While there was a clear need for the group and we had some amazing brainstorming sessions, no purpose was defined, no support gained, and no formal approval was ever given for the group – all key aspects to successful projects (Allen & Hardin, 2008; Greer, 2010, & Portny, et al, 2008). Ultimately, the project never actually formed. You will notice, I keep referring to “the group” rather than “the project team.” Essentially, we wanted to be a project, but we really weren’t.
Not all groups are meant to be – this is a reality of the project management world. Projects should be presented to senior management for approval to help ensure employees are focusing their efforts in the areas that are in line with the company goals (Allen & Hardin, 2008; Greer, 2010, & Portny, et al, 2008). However, in this case, the project “lead” never got things to that point. She lacked the management skills to go through those initial planning and approval steps.
What the group needed was for a Project Charter to be completed and presented for approval or not. While the group “lead” was in the default place to spearhead that task, any one of us in the group could have brought that need to light as either a recommendation for her as a next step or to offer to transition into that role. As a team member, here lies my greatest post mortem “take away” – to recognize that all team members have a responsibility to help keep the project on track. While the project manager should bear a large portion of that responsibility, every member can take an active leadership role to help keep things on track and heading in the right direction – and do so in a respectful and professional manner.
Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72–97.
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.