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114 Key Principles for Success

Principle 85 - Post-Mortem on a Process

One key way to improve your success is to do post-mortems.

The term post-mortem means after death. But in our case, it's what will bring life to your work.

You should close each day with a post-mortem analysis of how your day went. You can start with your plan for the day and what you accomplished. Put an alarm on your calendar to remind yourself to do this. If you don't plan your day start this habit also. Each day you should reprioritize what to do.

One problem with post-mortems is that they take time and it's hard to record what went wrong while it's going wrong. You will need a process and a habit to be able to do this.

The key is turning it into a habit. Add it to your schedule. Follow-up is key to successful post-mortems. Assigning only one person to resolve an issue and never multiple people.

Be prepared to answer the following questions:
  • What is the post-mortem on?
  • Date time
  • Start time and end time
  • People involved
  • List of issues that came up
  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What to change for next time?
  • Why did things go wrong
  • Do you have checklist that you work from
  • Did time constraints cause problems
  • Was there people issues
  • Were there project management issues?
  • How can you avoid the issues next time?
  • What general problems were there?
  • What specific issues came up?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • What was the root cause of the problem?
  • What are the take-aways?
  • What tasks are there and who is responsible?
  • What are the deadlines?

So that's an example of some questions you can ask during a post-mortem meeting.

One key with post-mortem's is not blaming people. This is the key. You want to get buy-in from people and not anger.

Time must be managed during the meeting to keep it on track. You also want help from other teammates.

Here is a list of issues from a recent reporting creation
  • Graph had label overlap and person responsible didn't fix it even though he was shown this a number of times
  • Data on slide overlaid the footer
  • Table of contents was wrong, wasn't detected, didn't fix properly
  • Worker gave incorrect information to my boss during a meeting "75% Comment" how to prevent this and learn from it
  • A better job could be done managing the suppliers
  • When I said we had problems worker said he  couldn't think of any
  • I ask the worker to escalate to the boss and he balks at the request
  • Worker was assigned a task and it was lower quality than I would have liked, I had to pull it
  • There were errors in data we received but it wasn't detected for 5 days
  • Old values on charts are changing problem
  • Move process to the new drive
  • SLA date issue was wrong supposed to be 3 days prior to delivery but only 2 days were given

A key to successful post-mortems is to update and follow checklists. If something went wrong can you add it to a checklist to prevent it?

Another key is to update your procedures with what you learn from them. If you work on a big enough team then it should be someone's job to run and manage this process.

Now I have to do a post-mortem to make sure this chapter is of high quality.

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