The postmortem exercise, used to summarize project successes and failures, is not the only way to gain process efficiencies crucial to the success of any IT project. Many times prenatal exercises are in order. Prenatal exercises are a simple yet powerful way to organize the activities and communicate expectations associated with any project before the project begins.
If you have ever been part of a postmortem exercise, you probably remember it with less than fond memories. The goal of the postmortem is to record the successes, failures, and any issues that arose during a project so that they can be documented as "lessons learned" and then prevented in future projects. A member of the team, typically the project manager, gathers the important players together at the completion of a project to go over the good, bad, and ugly. By this time, most members of the team, especially the test team and development team, are sick and tired of the application and the problems they ran into.
The last thing that people want to do at the end of a project is dredge up problems that are better left alone. What is that saying about letting sleeping dogs lie? More often than not, this activity can turn into a finger-pointing exercise where inadequacies in the project are blamed on groups or individuals. This, in turn, can lead to building up more walls between departments and hindering the success of future projects. Many times, this information is then stored in some directory on the network, rather than acting on the findings to institute process improvement.
I propose that the postmortem exercise, even if done well, is a less than optimal way to gain process efficiencies that are crucial to the success of any IT project. More appropriately, prenatal exercises are in order. You may be asking yourself, "What are prenatal exercises?"
From the Latin root, "prea" or "pre" meaning before, and "natalis" or "natal" meaning being born, the word may be used to define activities that take place before the birth of a project that can help to ensure its success. In this article, I plan to outline a very simple, yet powerful way to organize the activities associated with any project before it begins.
With any new idea, it is important that the people involved understand the benefits. Below is a list of ideas that you should share with people at your company regarding the benefits of prenatal exercises.