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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

End of Project Review - The purpose of "end of project reviews", also known as "lessons learned session," IMHO, is to develop changes to policies, practices, and behaviors that have proven to result in undesirable outcomes, and to systematize those things that result in good stuff.

Now, since no one will remember the good stuff, anyhow, and since avoiding pain is a higher priority than achieving pleasure, I'd start out with what people are good at -- bitching and moaning. Accentuate the negative.

What were the undesirable effects of the project's performance?

Collect all the problems that you want to assure don't happen again, from a broad cross-section of project stakeholders.

Identify why these are undesirable.
Identify why you put up with the problems, especially if they are chronic.
Identify what is being jeopardized by each problem.
Identify what undesirable actions resulting from these problems.
Identify any actions that feel like causes of the problem.
Identify whether the action ever puts you into a conflict or dilemma.

Use these characteristics as a story line surrounding the identified problems, so you can describe them in terms of a conflict or dilemma, or you can verbalize a conflict or dilemma that is closely related to each problem. (After all every problem can be described in terms of
such a dilemma...some rock and hard place situation.) Doing this keeps the problems from becoming finger-pointing sessions. Putting the problems in terms of systemic conflicts...rock and hard place situations that you find yourself in because there are two mutually exclusive requirements associates with trying to achieve some necessary conditions of success...makes it clear that most of these problems are not anyone's fault, but rather are related to people trying to make the best of a bad situation.

The Theory of Constraints Thinking Process known as the Evaporating Cloud is very useful for this process. For more information on the the Evaporating Cloud and on the full gamut of the TOC Thinking Processes, check out this link.

Now if you have the time and energy, and a deep well of patience, you can address each of these problems/dilemmas individually, but you will probably find that many, if not most or all, of the dilemmas have a similar feel. Develop a genericized version of these dilemmas. Analyze the paradigms, perceptions, and assumptions that force you between this generic rock and hard place. Address this root cause (core conflict) so that the erroneous assumptions that perpetuate it don't return to recreate the symptomatic problems. Solve this dilemma, and you have not only a deep solution, but also a meaningful starting point for thinking about the specifics of all the component problems/dilemmas that went into it.

This approach has been proven to work in many environment for solving specific problems in small subsystems like a project, as well as dealing with larger strategic issues of an organization. With facilitation, it takes only about a day to find the deep dilemma and an opening to solve it, with each participant working from the most important problem to them. It takes another day to translate it's solution to specific solutions for the individual problems. Then it is simply a matter of developing an implementation plan and project for putting those solutions into place.

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