Project Retrospectives: Evaluating Success, Failure, and Everything Inbetween

Every project – good or bad – should be a learning opportunity for the entire organisation. The project manager themselves can benefit from some time reflecting on what they could do better in managing projects, but there simply isn't time to stop moving forward for most project managers in the middle of so much work! This pdf by R. Ryan Nelson from the University of Virginia explains the value and process of project retrospectives – the value derived from examining successful and failed projects. The retrospective provides organizational learning, continuous improvement, a possibility for team building, and improved recognition of both good and bad elements coming into projects. As Nelson explains: Given the critical role that project management plays in the field of information technology, we need to accelerate our progress on this typically slow and painful learning process. To this end, project retrospectives need to evolve beyond simple checklists of what went right and wrong to become more analytic, as exemplified by the case examples in this article. Managers need to recognize that virtually every project experiences some successes and some failures. Yet, regardless of the level of success or failure, every project should contribute to organizational learning and continuous improvement. The pdf goes on to explain what benefits can be derived from retrospectives, how an organisation can benefit from them, and some sample case studies of where retrospectives provided insight and value to companies. Overall, retrospectives can help make succesful projects more frequent through the use of capturing best practices in the organization. Likewise, failed projects can be saved earlier (or shut down earlier) due to the increased awareness and vigilance that retrospectives provide.

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