Once upon a time there was a project team. They worked really hard for a really long time. They slayed the dragons of the project budget and climbed out of the valley of missed deadlines. At times they didn’t think they would make it, but one magical day the team reached the end of the project and marked it complete. And there was rejoicing across the land!
Quick Reality Check: By the time the dragons are defeated, we often just want to lay down and forget it ever happened. I say to you: maybe the project got done, but what did you learn from it? Taking 60 minutes to do a fast and simple project debrief will help you slay those dragons even faster next time (and maybe even eliminate them).
We began doing routine debrief meetings at Firefly several years ago. We select at least two projects to review together each month. Sometimes we choose the most interesting, other months we select the most challenging. It takes about an hour and we find that each of these debrief meetings provides ample opportunity to increase efficiency, bust assumptions and improve our processes. Interested in trying this at home? Here’s how they work at Firefly:
In our model, we invite these folks:
- Client & Technical Services Directors
- Project Manager
- Tech Lead
What’s the Prep Work?
We send around these 5 questions to the group ahead of time, and ask everyone to be prepared to answer them. We use this model because it is a great way to both control the conversation as well as remind us that even though we play different roles, we each have influence on the experiences of our full team. The questions are always the same for every debrief meeting.
- What was supposed to happen? Was there a difference between what we expected to happen and what did happen?
- What organizational constraints or barriers did we face? How did we overcome them?
- Did the team communicate frequently and effectively?
- Could time pressures have been alleviated by organizing the work differently?
- Could we have taken another approach to reach our goals more efficiently and effectively?
What’s the Process?
The call is run by a non-involved facilitator if possible, and detailed notes are taken. Going in chronological order based on the project work (salesperson starts first), each attendee answers the 5 questions based upon their own involvement in the project. At the end of the call, each participant is asked for their main takeaway as they have listened to the other members of the project team share their individual experiences.
What’s the Follow Up?
The notes are shared among the full Firefly team and we often use some of our weekly team call time to discuss as a big group. The directors will spot trends and opportunities for clarification or improvement in our process, and they work together to develop a communication plan out to their teams.
It does take discipline to make the time for these debrief meetings. I encourage you to give this a shot after your next project wraps – you are sure to learn some interesting things that will bring your team closer together and may just keep you from feeling the hot flames on your back next time!
Does your group spend time discussing projects after they wrap? Tell us about your process in the comments.
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