The Project Dinner Table

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Every evening my family gathers around the dinner table to discuss the day’s events.  We ask the usual questions to my children; “What did you do today?”, “What did you learn?”, “What was your favorite part of the day?”, “Why did that happen?”.  This allows me and my Husband to share in their day, understand what they’re doing at school, evaluate their development, and keep up on the daycare gossip.  In actuality we’re conducting a lessons learned review every evening.

In project management we call them “lessons learned”.  In medicine they’re referred to as “postmortems” and in the military they’re called “after action reviews”.  No matter what you call them, they are one of the most important tasks within a project.  Project close out is often an overlooked phase and with that, the lessons learned exercise.  This practice is essential in understanding the successes and failures of the project.  It is also key in future project success.

When conducting a lessons learned exercise I ensure that the purpose, process, and payoff have been explained to participants.  I provide necessary project reports to all stakeholders beforehand and set the expectation that all material will be reviewed before the discussion.  Then, we gather at the dinner table.  We discuss the project in detail.  Oftentimes participants are reluctant to share information they feel is critical.  I ask that each person list 3 items that are “sustains” and 3 items that are “improves”.  This will typically coax the discussion forward.  Once complete, I provide a report on the session and close out the project.

When it comes time to kick off a new project, I pull out previous lessons learned reports.  These act as a prompter for clarifying questions, identifying risks, and determining additional deliverables.  Just like dinners with my family, I find gathering at the dinner table with my project team to be nourishing.

What best practices do you exercise when closing out a project?


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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