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Business Analyst Tip: Hindsight is 20/20, or The Importance of Reflection

Business Analyst TipsAt the conclusion of every project where you are a participant, do you know what went well, went poorly, and what could have been done better? If you don’t, why not? Do you think this retrospective would be useful? At Seilevel, we’ve found it useful to perform what we call a ‘post-mortem’ at the conclusion of each project. We’ve found it useful to discuss the project as a whole, to learn from it, before we forget and become wrapped up in another project.

The post-mortem meeting lasts between a half hour and an hour and a half, depending on the size of the project and its intricacies. Rather than be a free-for-all equipped with mud-slinging and people defending their actions, it’s a controlled, organized review of the project that leads to improved methods and processes based on the experience with the last project. It’s not a bashing session or the place to air out all of your complaints about your co-workers. If what you have to say doesn’t lend itself to improvements then this is likely not the place for those comments.

The last post-mortem I was involved with was about the internship program. We just had another intern and as this program continues and grows, we’re looking to improve it. The goal of the program is to feed into our full-time employees, so we want to ensure the internship program succeeds in that goal. What did we learn from the past experience with our most recent intern that will improve the program next summer so that we can succeed in our goal of obtaining a flow of interns into our full-time employee pool? Everyone who was involved in the internship program participated, and we were able to make concrete recommendations for the program in all aspects: from interviewing and onboarding to management and communication of the intern’s last day.

The goal of the post-mortem is to come up with recommendations for future projects, based on the experiences with the project that was completed that will improve future methods and processes. We’ve found it useful to delve into questions such as, “What went wrong and why was it an issue? How could it have been avoided?” as these lead to recommendations to improve our processes. Not only do we want to focus on correcting what did not go well, we want to focus on what did so that we can continue doing those things. Try this at the end of your next project, and keep track of the recommendations so that they can be instituted in the next project. Leave a comment on how well or not so well instituting a post-mortem with your team was and the effect it had on your successive project.


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