Chapter 9 – Project Closure and Evaluation

9.6. Retrospectives

Retrospectives are fairly new to the closure of projects.  They are a structured workshop/meeting which gives the team time to reflect on the entire project. Through the workshop they learn about their successes and failures that will help other project teams to improve on success. Many people, including Human Resources, believed that too much time and energy was spent on closure that only included deliverables and financial outcomes.  Many argued a separate report would be beneficial to include lessons learned.  The process mirrors the traditional audit process.

For retrospectives, Human Resources would be a neutral party who acts as a guide and facilitator.  The Human Resources Specialist would lead the team through an analysis of all the projects tasks that went well, what went wrong, and how would we improve the next time. It also includes an action plan for the future with goals and recommendations.

Retrospectives Process

The retrospectives includes questionnaires.  It may include the operational impacts, however, as important would be inclusion of the impact the project had on the culture of the organization.  The Human Resources Specialist would send out the questionnaires.  These are answered anonymously and confidentially by each person. The answers would be analyzed. Where there were issues that were identified in the questionnaire, the Human Resources Specialist would note them.  Some examples of issues might be poor organization, inner team conflict, poor leadership by the project manager, time management issues, discrimination or harassment. Then, the HR Specialist would meet with the team individually, project manager and any other stakeholders one-to-one.  The Human Resources Specialist is then able to delve deeper into the issues and the impact they had on the project.  They would write a report on the findings.

Once this is completed, the information gathered, the Human Resources Specialist would facilitate a Retrospective Workshop.  First, they would review the report and findings.  They may ask the participants to add any important information that was deleted or missed.  Next, the HR Specialist would ask the participants to prioritize the information (issues).  They are often not called issues as it denotes negativity.  Sometimes they are called lessons.  Example:  Lesson #1:  Time management could have been improved (and include an example.) This promotes a more positive spin on the issue.

Next, each issue/lesson is designated to an owner of the issue/lesson.  The participant can volunteer to own the issue/lesson because it interests them.  The person must also have some familiarity with the issue/lesson.  This designate serves as a contact person for anyone who wishes information about the issue/lesson.  They may provide a more detailed report, speak to other members of ongoing or future projects.  The goal is to provide information that will benefit other existing or future projects that will improve the organization as a whole.

HR in Focus Retrospectives Process

These lessons learned would be archived  and accessible for other project members.  The Human Resources Specialist may build a repository that allows all employees to quickly find and sort through lessons learned. This way it is valued and utilized by employees of the organization. Examples of questions designed by HR:

The major questions:

  1. What did we do well?
  2. What did we do that was not done so well?
  3. What did we learn?
  4. What would we do differently the next time?
  5. What still bewilders us?

Other Worthy Questions:

  1. What assisted you in being a success as a team member?
  2. What were your expectations from (team members) and (project manager)?
  3. What processes/steps did you use that were useful?
  4. What were the hindrances that held you back from doing good work?
  5. If you could change something (a priority) what would it have been?
  6. What caused you problems?
  7. Was there anything that caused you stress?
  8. What went well?  What didn’t?

Still Other Worthy Questions: (organizational)

  1. Were you provided training at the beginning of the project? What training?
  2. Did you feel supported by upper management at the beginning? during? the project?
  3. Was Human Resources available to you at the beginning?  during? the project?
  4. Did Human Resources help you bring closure to the project?
  5. Did Human Resources help you re-integrate back into the organization?
  6. Were there enough staff on the project?
  7. Did everyone have the right skills and experience to perform their jobs on the project?
  8. Did your team have access to resources during the project? (people, materials, equipment, finances)
  9. Did you feel the project was aligned with the vision, mission and values of the organization?

Not all questions need to be asked in every project.  The Human Resources Specialist would pick the questions relevant to the project and the project team.  Many of these questions could be used in a Retrospective Workshop.

Retrospectives can provide valuable information the project teams can use for future project work.  They lead to improvements in the processes and outcomes.  Future project teams can utilize best practices advancing the success of projects.