We’ve all been there – that collective sigh of relief as a project makes its way out the door for launch. All the hours of revisions and client meetings can finally take a break while we wait for the post-launch data and feedback to roll in. But there’s one important step that we take during that project finale lull that can be incredibly valuable: the post-mortem meeting.

It sounds incredibly threatening, but it’s actually one of our favorite meetings to run at Posture. According to the folks at Workfront, a post-mortem is defined as a session held at the end of a project that examines the project from start to finish to determine what went well and what can be improved. By the end of the meeting, you should have identified best practices and opportunities for improvement going forward.

We know we always have room for improvement, so this meeting is a great way to take a step back and look at the big picture for our process while incorporating client feedback on a case-by-case basis. Take a look at our basic breakdown to help you start incorporating a post-mortem process of your own:

STEP 1: Every project? Yup.

There’s no such thing as a “bad” post-mortem, so every project should be examined. If things went well, why did they go so well? If things really went off the rails, how do you prevent that from happening with similar projects in the future? There is always something you can learn from a project’s life cycle. And when there is that project that went buttery smooth – take a moment to enjoy it! Pats on the back, all around.

STEP 2: Pre-meeting questionnaire

There’s nothing worse than sitting down in a meeting and staring into the void of non-talking participants. Get people to organize and reflect on their own beforehand with a short and sweet pre-meeting survey. It will not only help people articulate their feelings on a project, but you’ll notice trends throughout the answers as you review the surveys that will basically define the major talking points of the post-mortem for you.

STEP 3: Respect each other

When you have a project that went so wrong that it is literally painful to talk about, tensions and emotions can run high. Always start off the meeting with a reminder to respect each other when speaking openly. Just because something went wrong doesn’t mean it all needs to rest on one team member – no one grows or benefits from playing the blame game. Instead, focus on how the team could have worked together to make painful parts of the project run more smoothly. You’ll be surprised how people hold themselves accountable next time.

STEP 4: Stay organized

Whether the project was good, bad, or neutral, it’s easy to get carried away discussing the specifics and not follow any sort of format. Make sure you have an agenda defined by your pre-meeting survey, keep time limits on the sections/team members so everyone has a chance to be heard, and most importantly: WRITE IT ALL DOWN.

STEP 5: Define action steps

After the project has been thoroughly examined and discussed, use your notes to identify key points for improvement. Create a list of actionable steps that teams and/or individuals can take in order to work towards a better project experience. Whatever project or task management tools your company uses (we love this one), make sure you get these action steps outlined and assigned out before anyone steps foot outside the meeting. Review these items with the team before concluding so everyone can acknowledge what they will work on.

STEP 6: Execute your plan

Once the post-mortem meeting comes to a close, hold on to those beautiful moments of realization and ideas for improvement! Followup regularly in current projects and during weekly team meetings. Try to integrate new ideas from previous post-mortems on new projects in your pipeline as a way to get the team on board. Allow your team to welcome process change as a positive thing.

The biggest challenge: don’t let the post-mortem succumb to its own untimely demise! It’s not just “another meeting.” The more you believe in the process of the post-mortem meeting, the more your team will engage and continue to see the benefits project after project. <3