Project Management

In the Rearview Mirror: How To Debrief for Real Business Value

Kate Rockwood

Santhosh Nair, PMP, cringes when he remembers how he conducted his first debriefing sessions. He did the bulk of the talking, while team members just sat—mostly silent and disengaged. After distributing notes on the session, he considered the process complete.

“I didn't even implement the lessons learned— just captured and distributed feedback,” says Mr. Nair, who is now a portfolio manager at Dimension Data in Sydney, Australia. “When I think back on those early days, I was probably only conducting the session because it was required.”

After a long haul, project managers and team members might feel the urge to wrap things up so they can move on to the next big thing. But giving short shrift to the debriefing process could shortchange an organization's performance.

Without the help of lessons learned, future teams might repeat past mistakes that jeopardize project success. And projects that fail to deliver on time, on budget and within scope are costly. According to PMI's 2017 Pulse of the Profession: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the high cost of low performance, an average of US$97 million was wasted for every US$1 billion invested in 2016.

Gathering insights gained during a project can help boost performance—but only if the project team commits to the process. While there's no quick fix to make the …

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