What to cover in a project de-brief

The project de-brief is more than a casual conversation about what did and didn’t work, it digs into why things happened (or didn't happen) and what you need to do about them for future projects.

In organisations where project managers are on a constant treadmill of projects, the de-brief can sometimes be overlooked, but it is important as it can help to

  • Uncover ways to accelerate projects;
  • Innovate new approaches to problems;
  • Tackle difficult objectives;
  • Help you get back on track after a failed project by taking the lessons learned to move forward to the next project positively;
  • Contribute to the organisations knowledge management;
  • Help shape project risk management strategy.

The de-brief

A de-brief can sometimes be as painful as the project itself, especially when your project has failed and you need to investigate how, why and where things went wrong. 

It is important, however, that rather than rushing headlong into your next project that you take time for a thorough de-brief with both your team and your client. 

Consider such questions as

  1. What were we trying to accomplish?  Review the brief and targets you were trying to hit;
  2. Where did we hit (or miss) our objectives? Analyse your results;
  3. What impacted the results? This should drill down into granular detail; 
  4. What should we stop, start or continue doing? 
  5. Given the issues uncovered, the lessons learned, what are the next steps? 

In the case of de-briefing after a failed project, it is important to drill down further, conduct root cause analysis; were there any early warning signs, do the same mistakes keep happening?  Ask questions such as

  • Were you and the client perfectly aligned? 
  • Were you working to the same plan, the same goal and most importantly the same success criteria?
  • Did you and the client have the same view of the project? 
  • Were you both investing the time and manpower to complete the tasks and milestones you had promised?
  • Were your respective project managers focusing on the risks and mitigation strategies or were they composing not conducting? 
  • Did the project plan accurately reflect the resources required? 
  • Were all resources managed effectively and efficiently or did you over-commit your resources?
  • Were the timescales realistic?
  • Was there a formal schedule of achievable goals and, critically, an understanding of how much time you wanted your team to allocate to any given project? 
  • Did you over-commit your team to produce the ‘quick’ and successful goals resulting in unsustainable targets? Once you realise you are unable to maintain these levels of work it can be difficult to go back to the client to increase the budget;
  • Was the project monitored accurately?
  • Was the reporting accurate?

Taking the time to ask questions and understand what went wrong is valuable so that you can put solutions in place, create an action plan and make recommendations for the next project.  

  • Uncover ways to accelerate projects;
  • Innovate new approaches to problems;
  • Tackle difficult objectives;
  • Help you get back on track after a failed project by taking the lessons learned to move forward to the next project positively;
  • Contribute to the organisations knowledge management strategy;
  • Help to shape project risk management strategy.

A thorough de-brief ensures that over time you continuously improve the consistency of your projects so that you deliver more of them successfully. 

To learn more about how Hydra can help you deliver more projects successfully, watch our software in action.  Your free demo video is just a few clicks away.

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