Getting real about post-mortems

I talk a lot about post-mortems, started thinking about this a long time ago, and I’ve run quite a few.

I tend to think about meetings in general as post-mortems, as typical meetings tend to be for talking about what’s been done, and what we might do, rather than *actually doing work*. But we can change our meetings to be better.

In the slides from my keynote on Sunday, I posted some specific information about how to operate post-mortems.

The key points for conducting the meeting were:

  • Set expectation for 100% participation
  • Designate a note keeper & time keeper
  • Everyone shares a success, failure, something to do better
  • Vote anonymously on what to do next
  • Communicate meeting notes out

There’s great research into each one of these items. Some of it comes from “Effective meetings” curriculum, taught by Intel University. Fast Company had a great “meeting myths” article back in 1996 that still holds true (and references Intel’s meeting culture). The bit about anonymous voting comes from research into group dynamics and how people say different things depending on who is listening and what the social pressure is to lie or tell the truth.

How do you run your post-mortems? Anything you’d add?

One thought on “Getting real about post-mortems

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  1. Hi Selena, You (and your readers) might be interested in a couple more resources for effective, short retrospectives (a.k.a., post mortems):
    _Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great_ by Esther Derby and me – published in 2006 – the first book on continuous improvement/”inspect and adapt” meetings scaled for iterative work introduces a flexible framework for designing and leading retros.
    My blog has a category for retrospective activities
    Early this summer Patrick Kua will publish a new book, _The Retrospective Handbook: A guide for agile teams_ (through with more great information.
    And, of course, there’s a LinkedIn group devoted to the practice of Retrospectives.
    Good luck with all your future retrospectives!