Um consulting work never ends with the end of the project implemented by the consultant. Although the project is completed and / or the new process has already been implemented, the consultant needs to discuss the results with his team.
To this end, a meeting is scheduled with all the people who participated in the project, to analyze the results, observing what worked and what did not meet the initial expectations.
The objective is to identify the reasons for the disagreements in order to improve the service and / or the progress of an upcoming consulting project. These lessons learned from mistakes and challenges will prevent this from happening again in a new opportunity.
In general, these lessons also enable future projects to have their progress optimized and, consequently, to be completed in less time and with higher quality.
In addition, lessons learned meetings are often a great opportunity to foster a sense of community among team members, which improves communication.
But, what is the best way to conduct a project lessons learned meeting?
Generating team member engagement is vital to the success of the meeting. Also, if there is no collaborative involvement, there is no reason for the meeting. To get everyone involved, here are some tips:
- Make a habit of asking each person to share their opinion on each topic. This encourages an equal participation and not only of those who are most detached. In addition, it is a way of showing interest in the particular expression of each participant.
- Discuss the reasons and consequences. When pointing out a problem faced in the completed project, ask team members what they think is the source of the issue. The same goes for suggested approaches for the next time - ask what consequences these new ideas might have in the future.
- Seek harmony. Always try to find a consensus with the team about each action to be reviewed, recorded and taken. Not everyone will have the same enthusiasm, not everyone will agree on everything, but look for a common denominator that satisfies the team as a whole.
- Manage conflicts. Sometimes, by defending views or disagreeing with colleagues, people end up friction with each other. As the person responsible for conducting the meeting, you are responsible for closing the discussion. At this point, try not to take one side and try to make both sides understand the optics on the other side to reach the common good.
Create an environment for ideation
When analyzing the problems you face in order to generate solutions for the next time, it is important for participants to be able to develop new ideas.
There are many exercises that promote ideation. You will only find out which one works best with your team via trial and error. Here are some useful alternatives:
- Brainstorming - Ideal for thinking about problem solving as it allows for maximum interaction and engagement among participants. There is no wrong answer in brainstorming. But it works best for groups where everyone feels comfortable talking.
- Brainwriting - When some people are embarrassed about public speaking, this may be a more interesting option. It's the same idea as brainstorming, though, in writing.
You hand out a problem statement sheet and each participant should write three solutions or ideas. After 5 minutes, everyone passes their sheet to the left. Then each person reads the three ideas noted on the sheet and adds three more based on those.
After a few rounds, you will have dozens of new suggestions. Do as many rounds as you need. In the end, you can read everything and discuss with the team the best solutions and record them for future use.
- Best Worst Ideas Has it ever happened to you that the moment you need to find a good idea or solution to a problem, it seems that only "ridiculous" thoughts come to your mind? The truth is that you are not alone and this happens to a lot of people. It can certainly happen to your team.
Then ask participants to suggest the “worst ideas” for each case. Then, as a group, analyze each of the bad ideas and find out how to turn them into good together.
In addition to enabling the creation of truly positive solutions, this process also “destroys” this barrier of thought and opens the door to new, more constructive insights.
Ask open questions
Perhaps the best way to promote a discussion of the results achieved against the initial action plan is to ask participants open questions. Open-ended questions are those whose answers cannot be limited to a yes or no. Here are some suggestions:
- Did the project completely solve the problem for which it was designed?
- How does the end result compare to the original project plan in terms of quality, schedule and budget?
- Can we offer even greater benefits?
- Is the customer satisfied?
- If the customer was not satisfied, how should this be resolved?
- Have end users' needs been met?
- Is the new process working as expected?
- Are error rates low enough and adequate for the new process?
- Does the new process adjust to future operational demands?
- Are users properly trained and supported?
- Are there sufficiently qualified and safe people?
- What were the final costs?
- How do costs compare with the benefits achieved?
- How do the costs compare to the initial budget?
- If the project has not achieved a sufficiently large return, how can this be improved?
- If not all expected benefits have been achieved, what is needed to achieve them?
- Are there opportunities for additional training that will maximize results?
- If you could make any changes, what would bring even more value?
- What went wrong, why did these things go wrong, and how could these problems be avoided next time?
- What went well and can be repeated?
- What lessons have you learned that need to be taken forward for future projects?
- Does this project naturally lead to future projects?
Use Time Boxing Technique
The technique of time-boxing consists of separating a certain time for each agenda agenda. So you start the meeting by telling the team how many items you need to consider and how much time they have for each one.
It is agreed that if you do not come to a decision on any of the topics within the allotted time, the matter is automatically overridden and moved to the next list.
This is a way to optimize meeting time and promote quick discussion of solutions. If some of the time blocks really do end before the subject is closed, take note and forward further action.
The purpose of a lessons learned meeting is to reflect on the past in order to improve for the future. So focus on what you can improve, not on blaming yourself for what has happened in the past. This is not the time to focus on any person or team, but on learning.
And of course the lessons learned during the project cannot be forgotten - to prevent the same problems or mistakes from recurring. After all, the purpose of this meeting is to ensure that you - and the team - are able to create projects and execute them more and more effectively.
To do this, it is essential that you and your team use efficient project management tools throughout the operation. Only then will it be possible for you to analyze all the recorded data and make an assertive comparison between the planned and the realized.