Are you projects done to project completion? Are they reviewed after for success and points of improvement?
The biggest excuse for not pausing for post-project reflection is time — work is busy (heck, life is busy!), wouldn’t your employer and clients rather you keep things moving? Productivity is important. However, reflection can actually make us more productive.
Lessons learned from experience are heightened when we take time to reflect. We’re more likely to figure out areas of improvement, set smarter goals, and gain confidence in our self-efficacy that will push us to do more, better in the future.
What is a Doer and What Does it Have to do with Project Completion?
Doers are people who get work done, love solving problems, and take initiative. Those of us with the personality trait are often applauded for our productivity. But in our rush to move with efficiency from one task to the next, we often fail to take time for reflection.
You might be a doer if:
- Crossing items off a to-do list gives you a thrill
- Your response to a challenge is an enthusiastic, “I’m on it!”
- You find it hard to pay attention in long meetings (and sometimes short ones)
- No one’s ever listed patience as your greatest virtue
Schedule and Plan For Reflection After A Project
Once you know post-project reflection is important, you may (looking at you, doers) still be tempted to do the bare minimum. Inexperienced project managers often approach reflection with an offhanded remark to the project team to “make sure you take a few minutes to reflect!” But most of your project team won’t take that time. Even if you schedule a reflection meeting, little besides unproductive venting will occur without structure.
Instead, successful project managers know that it’s critical to build reflection time into every project, and to establish reflection guidelines with your project team. Creating a list of reflection points prior to your meeting does a couple of things.
First, it allows you to share those points with your team members who then have time to think about their answers and come prepared. Second, when formulated as a checklist, pre-established reflection points help doers remain focused on leading the reflection meeting. Instead of becoming distracted, you can treat each point as a to-do list item that needs to be checked off.
Your own list of reflection points may vary slightly based on your industry, team makeup, and project needs. However, at a bare minimum you should address the following reflection points post project.
5 Project Completion Points to Review
1. Objective vs. Outcome
Objective versus outcome is a great place to start your post-project reflection. Look back on what you set out to accomplish and discuss whether or not the finished project met those goals. If objective and outcome don’t match, it doesn’t necessarily mean a project was a failure. It could mean that the initial goals were wrong. Reflecting on this point will help you to set more accurate and manageable goals for future projects.
2. Scope vs. Reality
Scope creep — wherein additional elements are added beyond the initial agreed-upon brief — happens far too often. It’s a giant motivation killer for your team members, who feel like they’re constantly chasing a changing horizon. And it’s also a detriment to your client-satisfaction as costs or time added during a project seem like much more of a burden than if the same hours and figures were included at the outset.
You’ll know during a project whether or not scope creep is occurring, but reflecting on that point after the project helps you identify patterns. Perhaps there are particular clients or types of projects in which scope creep is most common. The more you are aware of common challenges, the better prepared you are to prevent them in the future.
3. Tracked Time
Project management software is an excellent tool for tracking time on whole projects, project components, and individual team members’ time contributions. Post-project reflection on tracked time is crucial to better understanding your employees and your business.
By looking at the time tracking reports, you can determine which team members are most efficient at certain tasks and assign work accordingly in the future. You can also identify which components of projects present the biggest hurdles and consider solutions (Different project management tools or training, for example). Most importantly, you can impact your bottom line. Understanding the human capital cost to projects will ensure you’re able to create a more accurate pricing structure with room for profit.
4. Client Satisfaction
Hopefully you’re including a step for client feedback (whether that client is an external organization or an internal team) in your project management process. You should, of course, be looking at ROI and whether or not what you produced is having the desired impact. But you also want to look at less monetarily quantifiable results such as how satisfied the client was with communication, your team’s service, the client’s ability to provide feedback, how that feedback was incorporated, and so on.
Reflecting on client feedback is important because it gives you the opportunity to improve. Just as important, however, is the use of client feedback as a tool for recognizing team members for a job well done. Share positive feedback (and specific names associated with it) at post-project reflection meetings and include those positive remarks in a wrap up you share with your entire organization. Recognized employees are happy employees.
5. Team Satisfaction
Your clients are an asset and their satisfaction matters. But it could be argued that an even more valuable asset is your team — keeping your top talent satisfied is crucial to their productivity and retention. Post-project reflections should include the opportunity for team members to weigh in on what did and did not go well.
Talk about the project, what they joined working on, what was difficult, and ask for feedback on the project management process itself and how it could be improved. Also, talk about the client. Find out if your team enjoyed working with that client and would be excited to do more with them in the future. As much as you need business, if a client is particularly impossible to work with, they may need to be “fired.” It’s important to reflect together on whether a client is simply difficult or truly damaging.
For those of us who have an internal (or even a company-wide) core value of “Getting Things Done,” having the patience for reflection can be a challenge. But when you consider reflection as a productivity booster and approach it like a to-do list, you’ll not only be able to stomach it, you’ll soon see its benefits.
Taylor Burke is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com. She’s passionate about marketing and project management. When she’s not in front of her screen, you can find Taylor reading, cooking, running, or hanging with her dog—but rarely all four at once.