EZ Project Debrief Process

project debrief

Hooray! You finally made it to the finish line of your latest online project. The project was big and daunting and you feel like you just completed an Ironman triathlon. You swam through the choppy budget waters without drowning, rode past all those deadline checkpoints, and somehow managed to run to the finish line just in time for launch.

By the time you cross that finish line you probably just want to collapse in exhaustion and forget it ever happened. But just like a good post-race routine that helps your body recover and prepare for the next race, your project needs a proper debrief process. Taking 60 minutes to do a quick and simple project debrief will help you get to the finish line at the next race stronger, faster, and with less challenges.

We began doing routine debrief meetings at Firefly several years ago. We select at least two projects to review together each month. Sometimes we choose the most interesting, other months we select the most challenging. It takes about an hour and we find that each of these debrief meetings provides ample opportunity to increase efficiency, bust assumptions and improve our processes. Interested in trying this at home? Here’s how they work at Firefly:

Who Attends?

In our model, we invite these folks:

  • Salesperson
  • Client & Technical Services Directors
  • Project Manager
  • Designer
  • Tech Lead

What’s the Prep Work?

We send around these 5 questions to the group ahead of time, and ask everyone to be prepared to answer them. We use this model because it is a great way to both control the conversation as well as remind us that even though we play different roles, we each have influence on the experiences of our full team. The questions are always the same for every debrief meeting.

  • What was supposed to happen? Was there a difference between what we expected to happen and what did happen?
  • What organizational constraints or barriers did we face? How did we overcome them?
  • Did the team communicate frequently and effectively?
  • Could time pressures have been alleviated by organizing the work differently?
  • Could we have taken another approach to reach our goals more efficiently and effectively?

What’s the Process?

The call is run by a non-involved facilitator if possible, and detailed notes are taken. Going in chronological order based on the project work (salesperson starts first), each attendee answers the 5 questions based upon their own involvement in the project. At the end of the call, each participant is asked for their main takeaway as they have listened to the other members of the project team share their individual experiences.

What’s the Follow Up?

The notes are shared among the full Firefly team and we often use some of our weekly team call time to discuss as a big group. The directors will spot trends and opportunities for clarification or improvement in our process, and they work together to develop a communication plan out to their teams.

It does take discipline to make the time for these debrief meetings. I encourage you to give this a shot after your next project wraps – you are sure to learn some interesting things that will bring your team closer together and may just keep you from feeling the hot flames on your back next time!

Does your group spend time discussing projects after they wrap? What might using a debrief process do for your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Maureen Wallbeoff

About Maureen Wallbeoff

Maureen Wallbeoff, Vice President at Firefly Partners, began her nonprofit career with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. Over her 16 year tenure, she rose from clinic assistant to the Director of e-Business for the organization. She possesses more than a decade of online campaign development and project management, along with a deep understanding of the strategic business needs of the nonprofit sector. Maureen works closely with nonprofits and thought leaders in today’s online engagement spaces, creating win/win solutions that work. A skilled presenter and facilitator, Maureen loves to bring people together to have authentic conversations that create consensus within an organization.

One comment

  1. Susan Kenna Wright

    I totally agree about the value of the final exit meeting. Completing a project is a huge success and this 60 minutes is very valuable.

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