In a lessons learned or project review session, your attendees will usually provide feedback freely. Hopefully, they know the purpose of these sessions and their roles in it.
But what about when your sponsor or upper management is present? What are their roles?
Rather than shelter upper management from lessons learned, consider their value in these sessions. Don't have upper management viewed as attendees who just want to hear the rehash of problems that the team doesn't want to relive anyway. Nor should you have upper management included to be a part of the blame game.
Ask your sponsor and upper management to be open minded and supportive advocates in receiving feedback toward improvement.
Here are three ways to get upper management to engage:
Talk: You, the project manager, must engage upper management in the discussion. Review the timeline and other milestones that took place on the project. Upper management could talk about how the goals of the project and the team's successes intertwined with the strategic goals of the company. The team would appreciate this perspective on the significance of their activities.
Listen: While some discussion points may not be pleasant for upper management to hear, their presence assures a level of impartiality to the team. Knowing someone from "up top" is listening reinforces the team's drive to be a part of a high-performing group. Getting to more favorable end results in future projects would become even more desirable for the team.
Share: Have your sponsor share comments about the purpose of the project and its greater use to the organization, the end users and the community. Have them elaborate on processes. Ensure early on that they recognize processes mentioned in the discussion that could be rewritten or are no longer necessary. This sharing will foster bonding with the team.
How do you involve your sponsors and upper management in lessons learned sessions?