Topic 12.5: Project reflection

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Various terms are used to describe learning from project experience and reviewing project performance: post-implementation review, project post-mortem, project closure review, post-project review etc.

Importantly, a project review is intended to be learning-focused, rather than a process of finger-pointing or blame allocation.

Whatever it is called, the main purposes of a project review are to:

Ascertain whether the project has achieved its planned objectives

Review the performance of project management processes, and

Capture learnings for future projects.

Let’s start with a project reflection. This is a specific type of review that every project manager should undertake as part of their closing process.

Essentially, a reflection involves taking a critical look back at your own performance and your management of the project team in an effort to identify what you did well, and what you could do better next time.

Your reflection might look at how well you executed each project (such as initiation, planning, delivery and close), or it might explore specific aspects of project delivery, such as your management of the triple constraints.

Now although you might also be required to formally present the findings of your reflection back to your organisation, it is important to recognise that a reflection is inherently a biased activity.

In other words, you are subjectively applying your own recall and judgement to events.

So even if you are more than capable of critiquing your own performance, you cannot know what you don’t know; this is why if it is at all possible you should consult the archived project documentation.

It should also be noted that because the reflection depends on recent recall to be successful, the timing of the reflection – immediately post-project – means that at best you can often only reflect on the success of the project from the perspective of project management processes.

Because the use of project outputs and their ultimate outcomes can sometimes take years to materialise, their review is usually out of scope at this stage.