How to Conduct a Motivating Post Project Review [Yes! And blog 151]

Working with remote teams

Videoconferencing camera

“One does not have to be a mad scientist to travel in time.”

Authors of research paper: “Back to the future. Temporal Perspective in the Explanation of Events.”

 Need to run a brief post project review including remote teams?

Post Project (or phase of a project) Reviews are a regular type of meeting that organisations run. However, there can be some issues:

  • Often, people are keen to get on with the next project or phase of the project; time is short amongst the team
  • Projects don’t always go to plan; there can be sensitive issues to discuss leading to friction during the review
  • Some parts of the team are often based in different locations and must participate via teleconference or video conference

A client asked me to run a workshop to review one phase in a project. I expected this to be a half-day with all participants in London, no issue. However, my brief was to complete the workshop in two hours, be sensitive to some challenging topics and ensure three people linking in via videoconference would feel part of the workshop. Luckily, I enjoy a challenge.

My first thought was that two hours was too short, however, it transpired that an extra 30 minutes extra were available if all agreed on the day. This was still not a lot of time, so I decided to use Solutions Focus (SF, please see Improve Collaboration With Solution Focus for a PDF article on this), which is very efficient and invaluable when there are sensitive topics to deal with.

Even though I am highly experienced with SF, with a challenging brief I decided to ask some of my SF colleagues across the world for ideas on running a Post Project Review in a short time. As usual, people were very generous with their information and this helped clarify my thoughts and gave me fresh ideas on how to run it. The lesson here is, not to be afraid to ask or look for fresh ideas.

So

Here is the design you might use:

Focus

  • Set the room up with music playing, inspirational quotations on the wall and a few toys for energetic people to play with when thinking.  If possible, have chairs only
  • Explain the purpose, outcomes and agenda for the day, even though you have sent a pre workshop brief to all participants [5 mins]
  • Give the group a brief exercise to focus them on something positive and away from work issues [5 mins]

Constructive Rant

This tool enables teams to share concerns constructively, without demotivating people. In SF terms, we create the “Platform.”

  • Ask pairs to go for a walk and have individuals relate what they would do differently about this phase of the project [10 mins]
  • In pairs, individuals identify what they want the team to do differently in future projects or phases and record on Post It notes [10 mins]
  • Group reviews output and clusters the input, if necessary [10 mins]

I recommend you click here for more explanation of this tool.

What Worked Well

Now share the good news:

  • Have individuals note key aspects that worked well and write up on Post It notes [10 mins]
  • Group reviews output for clarity and to share the good news [10 mins]

Back to the Future

How might the team improve the next phase or project?

  • Line the group up in a position that represents “today”. Next, walk the team along a time line until they are standing at a point in time when the next phase of the project has been successful. Ask them to “look back” over this phase of the project and consider what has made it successful  [5 mins]
  • Have small teams make high level recommendations to create this success and assign responsibilities [20 mins]
  • Have the group review recommendations and agree responsibility [20]

Research (please click here for article) shows that people make better decisions when they step forward in time and look back to imagine what was done, rather than look ahead to what will be done.

Sprint Actions

This tool (please click here for more explanation) helps people take small steps to move the team forward and take action, rather than loading them with a huge action list they fail to achieve.

  • Individuals identify Sprint Actions to move forward [5]
  • Individuals accept responsibility for Sprint Action [10]

Other Points

Communicating with the remote team

Because we had people working remotely and had a short time, I wrote a clear brief for each session in the workshop. We sent these to the remote team before the meeting started. This worked very well.

The remote team did exactly the same exercises as the home team, even going for a walk during the Rant.

They wrote their Post It note output in to an Excel spreadsheet and e-mailed this to an administrator in the workshop. She wrote out the individual Post It notes and shared them with the home team. We tried to share the Excel screen but this failed to work.

I kept in regular contact with the remote team members to ensure they were involved and happy and they found the meeting worked well for them.  They were able to see the person talking and hear clearly as long as people faced the microphones

I took pictures of the screen that showed the remote team in action and was able to include some in the report to make them feel part of the event.

Videoconferencing

  • My client used a camera that automatically focuses on the person that is speaking (Polycom5000). However, these are designed for table-based meetings. If you are running a workshop, you have to raise the camera to see people standing
  • Arrange to have someone from the home team and the remote team arrive an hour early to ensure videoconferencing is working. We found this vital
  • Videoconferencing does require high bandwidth on the line. If you are going to do a lot of these calls you should really obtain dedicated high bandwidth lines.

To Close

The meeting was very successful though we needed the extra thirty minutes. This was mainly due to the video system failing at the start of the meeting, having worked perfectly after the initial teething problems during the set up!

Technology, don’t you love it?

John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.

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