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Continual improvement through post mortem’s August 22, 2008

Posted by Darth Sidious in Project Management.
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A lot of organizations move at a frantic pace (especially the Galactic Empire), but never really improve. When it comes to projects and managing projects it’s common to move right onto the next one as soon as one is done.

Because of that, are you ever truly improving? It’s worth it to add as part of the project plan to factor in a post completion post mortem. In the post mortem you’re looking to identify the following…

What did we do well?

Being fully aware of your strengths is important, as that’s what you want to continue leveraging as an advantage going forward. Are you particularly good at completing certain types of projects, actualizing certain types of ROI, or taking on certain kinds of hurdles?

When it comes to prioritizing future projects, it would be a smart move to notate somewhere for all future projects how well your strengths (from the perspective of project execution) map against the project as part of the evaluation process.

For example the Empire is particularly good at building Star Destroyers, we can pump those suckers out like it’s nobodies business. Since resources (people, capital, and time) are always in short supply and we have a need for a Star Destroyer, vs. something else – each of which are equal in priority… the tipping balance would go in favor of the Star Destroyer since we know we can kick ass in that area.

What didn’t we do so well at?

This is where the improvement comes into play. If you’re not identifying what you didn’t do so well at, you’re going keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. For example there’s a mistake that the Empire keeps doing and it drives me crazy – we keep using the same round interface port design that allows R2D2 to keep overriding our security systems (you have no idea how annoying that is).

As part of the post mortem list out all the things that didn’t go well with the project. Things you didn’t anticipate, what caused certain delays, why budgets were overrun, why the amount of scope creep was out of control, things you found the organization isn’t good at, etc… For example I’ve found that the Empire is not good at building commodity low cost attack robots; Jedi’s are able to walk through armies of those as if they’re nothing more of a nuisance than flies. We just can’t get the artificial intelligence level high enough with the low cost CPUs, part of that is our coders lack the skill to write efficient enough code (I’ve electrocuted them as a result btw).

So going forward now that we’ve identified that weakness at least we’re not going to keep making the same mistake. Though in those analogies they’re slanted towards the quality of the product, but just to clarify, your focus is on the project and not necessarily the product. A bad product is just the result of not identifying our weaknesses up front as part of the project planning (e.g. I like the idea of cheap robots, so if we try to do it again perhaps we bring in a company that specializes in such things).

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Comments»

1. Paul Culmsee - August 24, 2008

One thing you should really look into is your risk management in relation to budgeting. I notice that the empire has a bad habit of single points of failure. Case in point, for all the cool engineering tht went into the first death star, you got nailed by a proton torpedo down the exhaust chute.

So the results of the lessons learned can be seen here

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Death_Star_II

I wish to draw your attention to the great idea of the energy shield that protected DSII from external attack. Surely, someone would have drawn your attention to the fact that such an important feature needed some high availability features. I’m talking extra stormtroopers, DR site, clustered servers, fibre channel SAN with high availability and some decent comms.

Oh, and a good offsite tape backup system

I think that one investment would have really caused the rebel scum some problems, as they would have really been stretched to mount two simultaneous attacks.

Comments?

2. Darth Sidious - August 29, 2008

@Paul – Excellent points! Our Risk Management Plan did fail to recognize those threats, and had we spent 5 minutes to do a SWOT analysis maybe we would have picked those up.

Admittedly we were trying to fast track the process and took some short cuts because we saw a business opportunity with the Jedi Council destroyed, we didn’t want to take too much time which would have allowed them to strengthen and regroup. It was a calculated risk, but what ticks me off is how easily the DSII was destroyed, it was just as easy as the DS I.

So… the post mortem on the DS II is – how come we still make Death Star’s so easily destroyed?

Now I’m riled up, and someone is going to get electrocuted now…


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