What do you do when you finally finish a big piece of work or massive project?

If you are like most humans, the last thing you want to do is hang around for a minute longer.

In fact, the first thing that you probably want to do is, quite simply, forget about the whole thing. Possibly for ever. Or at the very least, not for a long while. This is often especially true if you have been involved in a long and arduous piece of work that feels like it has taken over your life.

Road sign pointing in different directions but saying 'plan A', plan b etc etc to show a post-project debrief

But before you move on and pack it all away…..take a deep breath and pause for a second.

And then do the unthinkable: find time and energy for a post-project debrief.

You are probably already used to doing debriefs – with clients, with stakeholders, with suppliers etc. We are often eager to check in, find out how things landed and to see how to make things better or easier next time.

But what about debriefing with your team? Do you take the opportunity to debrief with those involved in a project or piece of work? Do you find out how things really went so everyone can benefit next time? Or do you avoid any such malarky?

Some useful points to consider for a successful post-project debrief:

What did you want to happen in the first place? Hopefully you had some kind of plan, a couple of objectives, or a vision of success that you can reflect upon and ask ‘did we get there?’

What went well? Which were the parts that really shone? What went precisely as expected and got you to where you wanted to be?

What didn’t work well? Were there things that weren’t at all what you wanted or perhaps which threatened to take you way off track? Maybe there were even some parts that were truly horrifying which need to be reviewed to ensure they don’t happen again.

What could’ve been even better? Every project, even hugely successful ones, will have some aspects that could be improved for next time.

How would it have been different if…….(insert item/action/situation of your choice). Do check out this blog post for some different ways to see how things could be different.

How did you adapt to the twists and turns? What happened to the things that didn’t go well and the curve balls that always happen? If you were able to adapt when things went a bit sideways in this project, you will definitely want to understand how you did it. Things rarely go exactly how you expect and building this knowledge into future plans will help make you, your team and the organisation, more resilient.

Factor in a debrief

When planning and scheduling any project or piece of work, factor a team debrief into the timeline. Make it a part of your action plan and then make sure it happens. Put aside the time to actually debrief and be sure to involve the right people, not just the two left standing at the end! If a piece of work has been long and complex you may even need to start the debrief with some stakeholder mapping to work out who needs to be involved in the debrief.

It’s worth being specific. A team debrief after a project shouldn’t become a moan-fest or a chance to blame people for the things that went wrong. To ensure this doesn’t happen, it can be useful to outline the purpose of the debrief to those attending. This will help manage expectations and also encourage people to show up prepared and ready to contribute.

Use the fruits of your debrief as a starting point for the next piece of work. In fact, why not build this into the setting up or discovery phase. As you progress through projects or pieces of work, you and your team will begin to appreciate the value of each and every debrief. Fewer mistakes will occur and people will appreciate the focus on learning and moving on rather than the never ending circle of doom that occurs when lessons are never learned!

Need Help With Your Post-Project Debrief?

The tips above should be enough to get you started on a good solid debrief after a project.

Of course, some projects end up being so complicated that you might appreciate some help to extract the key points. That’s why we put together our Dynamic Debrief workshop; to help you get the most out of your debrief in the shortest time possible and with minimal effort. Get in touch to find out more.

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