No matter how a project turns out in the end, there’s always an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from it. That’s right, whether your project was a major success or it didn’t meet all of its goals, you and your team can reflect on what happened so you can make changes that will benefit you in future projects.  Let’s look more closely at post mortems and the value of using a project lessons learned template.  

Project Lessons Learned Template & Post Mortem Meetings

  1. What Is a Project Post Mortem and Lessons Learned?
  2. Why Are Lessons Learned Important in Project Management? 
  3. Examples of Lessons Learned
  4. How to Conduct a Lessons Learned Project Management Meeting
  5. Lessons Learned Template: Purpose and Examples

What Is a Project Post Mortem and Lessons Learned? 

Put simply, a post mortem meeting is one that you conduct with your team after a project is complete.  

You discuss the hardships and setbacks that your team faced, but you also look at the goals you achieved together—that’s why it’s also called a lessons learned meeting!   

Why Are Lessons Learned Important in Project Management? 

Mistakes happen, and projects don’t always go exactly as you want. But the good news is that, no matter what problems you encountered, you can learn something that will help you improve the way you do things down the road.  

Without reflecting on the positives and negatives, you won’t be able to use the experience to your advantage.    

Examples of Lessons Learned 

The lessons you learn may vary greatly from one project to another. No matter what, it’s all about continually improving the way you manage projects and lead teams.    

Positive lessons learned examples: 

  • Your team appreciated the level of support you provided, and they had the tools they needed because of you.
  • You set up rewards that motivated team members to perform at their best.
  • Your expectations were clear, and every team member knew what they needed to do and what their deadlines were. 
  • Team members with less experience felt totally supported, with experts they could turn to readily for assistance.   

Negative lessons learned project management examples: 

  • Your team felt like you weren’t accessible enough during the project, so they lacked the support they needed. 
  • Team members encountered difficulties when trying to work well with one another.

Individuals were assigned to tasks that they weren’t capable of completing, so their skills weren’t properly aligned with the tasks they were given. 

The project’s timeline was put together poorly, or team members were unclear about when milestones were due.  

How to Conduct a Lessons Learned Project Management Meeting 

Holding an informal meeting is a great way to get feedback from everyone involved in a project, and it can help make them feel at ease so they can be honest and upfront about their feelings.  

Consider starting the meeting by sharing your own feedback to create an environment where everyone will feel comfortable with speaking their mind. Or, if you sent out a survey or questionnaire prior to the meeting, you can use it to start the conversation.  

Ask everyone about their thoughts on how a project went, including what they liked and disliked about how things were done along the way.  

If there are just a few people at the meeting, you can ask them questions individually. But it might be better to break people up into small groups if the meeting has a lot of people and you want to be sure everyone is heard in an organized manner.  

Tip: Set the date for a post mortem meeting shortly after a project is complete so individuals can easily recall what went well vs. what went wrong.   

Identify, document, analyze, store, retrieve 

During a post mortem meeting, you identify, analyze, and organize lessons learned and the conditions that led to those results.  

With the right method in place, you can store this feedback in a database that will make it simple to access the lessons whenever necessary.  

This way, before starting your next project, you can quickly and easily retrieve the lessons learned from a previous project to review them and set up a plan that will help you avoid making the same errors.  

Lessons Learned Template: Purpose and Examples 

A project post mortem template can come in handy when conducting your meeting and gathering information from your team. You can use a template that you find online or you can create your own and tweak it, as needed, for every project you complete.  

For example, you can write up a series of statements, and then ask your team to provide their input on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “strongly agree” and 5 being “strongly disagree.”    

You can also use a spreadsheet to create just a few columns where your team members can provide feedback on the things that went smoothly, the aspects of the project that were problematic, and the things they learned.   

Yet another way to gather feedback is by listing out the specific areas you want your team members to focus on. They can then share any issues they experienced, why they experienced those problems, the impact of those problems, and their proposed solutions for future projects.  

Your project lessons learned template could cover a range of topics, such as: 

  • Planning, execution, and outcome 
  • Scope, budget, and assignments 
  • Quality management 
  • Risk management 

Don’t Neglect the Lessons Learned Meeting 

As you can see, there are many benefits that come from conducting a post mortem meeting. Knowing how to run this type of meeting to gather and analyze the lessons learned is the first step. From there, you can gain valuable insight into how you can improve your processes to run projects more effectively.  


Cate Curry
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