We creatives hate goal setting. We often feel it takes the magic out of making. If we somehow manage to set a goal and achieve it, we hit another roadblock: knowing how to duplicate this success. Getting us to take the necessary steps to reflect on the success and reverse engineer the process is a tall order. We just want to get going on the next shiny new project. This process of reflecting is often referred to as a project retrospective or a post-mortem.
This kind of planning and organized reflection doesn’t resonate with most creative people. We are wired differently. But doing this is the best way to learn and grow before the next big push. It can be a bit painful for us creatives to work like this, but the results are absolutely worth the discomfort.
Remember, there is hope in pain. It is the “the great motivator”.
How to Organize a Productive Post Mortem Process:
Make a Plan Before the Post-Mortem
While this may sound like a “duh” point to make, it is literally the most vital. You are doing a post-mortem because you most likely encountered some failures in your project. Don’t jump right back into the same action that got you here. Take a minute to get organized at the beginning so you can move forward with clarity. Start with a clear and concise plan. You’ll be able to see the red flags and things that need tweaking before you even begin on the project.
Release the Fear of What Went Wrong
People get hung up and stuck when things go wrong. They lose confidence and tumble down the rabbit hole reviewing the missteps over and over again. Instead, look at these missteps as opportunities. Making mistakes is part of the process. Plus, you learn much more than if you consistently did everything right from the get-go.
World class executives and entrepreneurs all have stories of failing miserably. They share their gratitude for them because these mistakes taught them lessons that changed their careers. Release the fear of what went wrong, embrace the mistake, and look for the lesson. This will open you up to be able to get it right next time.
Look at Both Success and Failure
There is just as much to learn about what went well as what went wrong. The natural first step in developing a post-mortem process is to only reflect after a calamity. But what about when something goes right from start to finish? We say “wow that was great!”, and ride on towards another hopeful success. But isn’t learning how to duplicate this success the MOST important lesson? Of course, it is!
Step back from success and analyze with the same objective reflection. We can tease out the best of the process and reverse engineer the methods that worked best. The trick is now remembering to do this stuff the right way next time 😉
Keep a running tally of successes and failures when doing a post-mortem. This can be sensitive, so take care to gently discover how this works best for you and your company. And then…be clear, concise, honest. Make yourself vulnerable. Allow the uncomfortable feeling of admitting what went wrong to propel you forward. With a scorecard of the good and bad from each project, you can be objective when weighing future decisions.
This is hugely important when working with a larger firm or organization as well. You want to be able to give your people a quick glance at the backbone of the post-mortem. You also want to provide more detailed information on each point. You can refer back to your scorecard quickly and easily in the future before you take action on a new project. This helps to ensure you are in alignment with the best possible plan for success as dictated by historical data.
Bring it All Together
When you’ve ripped all the truth from the carcass of your rotting project, bring everything together in a document that you can always easily refer back to. Make a set of rules or “dos and don’ts” that become the official process for moving forward. Bring everyone in the company in on this and share all that was learned. Getting everyone on the same page is what will help you keep clear for the future.
This is absolutely one-hundred percent, a team effort.
This is something we are passionate about. We would be happy to help you get your organization and post-mortem strategy in place. Get in touch with us, or check out our Post Mortem Workbook below and you can get rolling on turning your failures into your successes…and turning your successes into predictable, duplicatable, amazingness.