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Getting the team to be the drivers of a post mortem – getting more importance

For a number of years, we used to follow the policy of ensuring that we do a post-mortem at the end of the project, and ensuring that points raised by team members are tracked, and then required changes implemented. In the interest of time, the way that we would go about the post-mortem was to define a set of areas that we would want the team to talk about, and then encourage a discussion in the team. After some initial points, everybody would be ready to proceed with detailing the points that they wanted to bring out (whether these be items that were positive in the cycle and would need to be repeated) and all of these would be tabulated. Once the points are listed out, we (the managers in the team would take these points, decide on the ones that are the priority items out of these, and then identify the steps to be taken.
Over a period of time, we found that even though people were enthusiastic about the points they wanted to list in the post-mortem, they were not so interested in the actual action taken part of the post-mortem, and this was a problem when the team needed to take some action to complete the items of the post-mortem. We had cases where people had reported a strong peeve, but when we needed them to take some action, there was no real interest and in some cases, strong resistance.
We spent some time trying to figure out what the problem could be, and finally, the conclusion was that the team was not involved enough in the action taken part of the post mortem. As a part of that, we also realized that you cannot set arbitrary timelines of a hour or two for the post-mortem that has to evaluate actions taken over a whole year worth of project cycle, and we decided to set a time of around 3-4 hours for the post-mortem. Another hit idea was to cater lunch for the post-mortem meeting (pizza and soda) which caused more people to show up for the post-mortem.
The biggest action we took was to decide that more team members have to be involved with the action of determining the next steps from the post-mortem. So we decided to add additional steps for the team, letting them decide the importance of the items from the post-mortem (in terms of deciding the top 5-10 issues that they would like resolved for the next cycle), and once this was done, asked for volunteers to help drive decisions, with the promise that managers of the team would assist them to all extent to figure out the next steps. It seemed like very simple steps, but the amount of participation we got from the team members for resolving issues was incredible; and that cycle saw far more resolution of items from the post-mortem as compared to previous cycles.

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