Group doing a postmortem

Some of our favorite Halloween movies feature zombies coming back from the dead and creepy cemetery scenes. In the spirit of the season, I want to stress how important postmortems are for your marketing projects. The goal for these autopsy investigations is to be productive not gory, collaborative not combative.

What is a postmortem?

A postmortem is an assessment, analysis, and discussion of a project after its completion to determine what was successful or unsuccessful.

What is its purpose?

To determine how the project did internally, externally, operationally and budgetarily. 

Why is it important?

It allows the opportunity to step back and examine a project after it’s completed to both celebrate successes and recognize areas of opportunity. When done well, postmortems produce lessons that help keep doing the good things and recognize where to change the bad, so the next project is even better.

They also put an end to the insanity cycle, which dooms us to make the same mistakes over again expecting a different result.

A postmortem can make your work and your team more efficient and improve communication, profit margin, project cost estimates, and allocating resources, ultimately making you a better partner for your client.

Here are some additional postmortem tips to keep in mind.

Complete one for every project. We can learn something from every project, big or small, bad or good. A postmortem isn’t just for the project that went wrong. Celebrate your successes and learn from what went right.

Stay positive. These aren’t meant to be downers and blame sessions. They are intended to help you learn and grow. A negative atmosphere will simply make people defensive and critical of the process. You risk getting less participation and information– bad or good – about a project. Create an environment of honesty but stay focused on what is constructive to better the process. Assigning a moderator who understands the do’s and don’ts is a great way of staying on task.

Have an agenda. Chartwell doesn’t do meetings without agendas – it’s just part of our culture. We developed a standard postmortem agenda, which helps capture consistent information so you can compare apples to apples for past and future projects. The agenda can evolve as you pick up useful tips from various projects. And these don’t have to be marathon sessions: Keep them brief and focused to avoid the complaining and blaming.

Get the client involved. You’re hopefully already working closely with the client on said project, but once it’s wrapped up, ask them for their feedback and incorporate that into your postmortem. They might bring up an issue or pile on some praise for something you hadn’t considered. And if their feedback doesn’t match yours, it’s important to figure out where the two opinions differed.

Document and share your takeaways. When we have project postmortems, we share the key takeaways during our Monday morning staff meetings. It’s always interesting to hear the successes and potential improvements for next time and if the project stayed on budget and was profitable.

Create actionable items. All of this is for naught if you don’t change your processes based on this project feedback. Learning from the past but not living in it is just good life advice.

At Chartwell Agency, we are always looking at better ways to serve and create the best experiences for our clients. So, leave the scary stuff to the movie monsters and goblins – don’t be afraid of project postmortems.