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The need for doing frequent reviews and post-morterms, even for Waterfall projects

For those who are used to the Scrum style methodology of software development, having a meeting at the end of every Sprint cycle that is a retrospective is very useful. You have a team reviewing what all went well, what went bad, and so on; and the biggest benefits are that it lets out some frustrations that team members may have and also produces some ideas that may benefit the project. However, in conventional waterfall projects, there are really no post-mortems schedule except at the end of the cycle. In this post, I wanted to talk more about getting more of these post-morterms done during the project cycle rather than at the end.
When a post morterm is done at the end of the cycle, people are tired by that point and do not have the energy levels to have those thorough discussions where issues are discussed and resolved. Further, unless people actually write down some of the items they have experienced during the cycle, they actually forget some of the points that they experienced or do not remember the details of the issues, which reduces the effectiveness of the post mortems. Finally, when the project is at the end, there is a sense of completeness that has set in, and getting people to go back and review what they have done does not really appeal to the people involved in the project.
Let’s talk about something that can be changed in the course of the project cycle. We tried a different approach where we wanted to do reviews on a regular periodic base, and scheduled post-morterms on a 5 weekly basis. Initially, there was some resistance, with team members not sure whether these would accomplish something, and some managers also worrying about the time spent for the post-morterm. However, we seeded the ground for the first such post-morterm by publishing a list of the various categories (suggested categories) for which there could be points raised in the post-morterm. And then we setup the meeting, telling the team members that pizza would be served along with soda.
And so the meeting started, with the team members slowly ambling into the room, and for the first few moments, there was silence; we tried to encourage people to make points about what went well, in the belief that a positive item might start to get people involved. And then we had a person make a point, a few people nod, one person offer a counter-point, and then we had several more hands starting to go up. Within 10 minutes, we had an interactive discussion go on, and we only had to moderate it a few times when some of the comments started to point out specific people and that part was reined in (one of the initial ground rules was that you cannot say that this person did a bad job on this case, and so on .. you could ask as to how this could have been done better and what was the impact on the team).
Overall, the points were notes, some action items made and communicated to the team, and so we counted this first session as a positive, setting the ground for the next session which was great from the start.

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