What went right, what went wrong

I don’t know about you, but when the process of getting a project over the finish line is complete — I’m exhausted.

Delays, revisions, meetings, problems, conflicts… We endure a lot trying to get a project from concept to completion. By launch day, long gone are the days of excitement… Hell, sometimes I’m happy if I can at least feel relief 😅.

Along the way I often catch myself muttering under my breath (if not shouting from the rooftops) “I’m never making _this_ mistake again!”.

Fast-forward 6 months, and you’ll find me making that same mistake, again.

Why? Because as soon as one project is over, it’s on to the next!
If we don’t take the time to learn from these mistakes, then we’re bound to repeat them.

But how can we ensure the lesson really sinks in? How do we objectively recognize the signs of a project going off the rails?

One way I’ve found to be extremely helpful is a Post-Project Assessment (also known as a “retro”).

So, what is it? And more importantly, how does it help?

A retro gives you the opportunity to record what went right, what went wrong, and what improvements you want to make in the next project.

And although it may just sound like another administrative task to take care of — a retro can be an extremely valuable tool for you, your team, and your contractors (you should get all of your internal stakeholders involved!).

By recording these things, you can start to see trends. You can see exactly where your weaknesses are and more easily spot red flags in clients.

You can make better, more specific plans for avoiding issues in the future.

You can measure and track your progress in a way that gives you something tangible to evaluate.

I’m sure you’ll agree that avoiding mistakes is great — but where I’ve found these particularly valuable is in helping me see what things I excel at, what types of projects are a good fit, and what kinds of customers I should be pursuing (which I’ve historically been terrible at recognizing in myself).

What’s great about the assessment is that you can step outside of the project and look at it more objectively instead of relying on your instinct. And because you’ve taken the time to physically record it, you’re a lot less likely to make the same mistake twice.

Here’s a copy of a simple Google Doc you can use as the basis for your retros. I’d recommend keeping all your retros in one document (just copy and paste the setup each time) so you can have them all in one place to review.

Or, if you’re the Airtable type, here’s a link to my Post-Project Assessment base which goes into a little more detail (just hit the “Copy base” link across the top).

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