Everyone seems to agree in principle that it is good practice to hold project reviews, although it also seems relatively few actually take place. I have no figures to back up this assertion, but experience and anecdotal evidence suggests to me that formal or informal project review meetings are a common casualties in the ever present struggle to deliver ‘more for less’. However omitting project reviews can be a false economy. How else can individuals, teams and organisations learn to improve unless some people sit down and ask for any given project or related group of projects: What worked well? What lessons can we learn? How can we improve?
This is not hard to do, so why are project reviews often skipped? The most obvious reason is the feeling that time can be better spent by working on the next project, which usually means that chargeable time can be recorded. Reviewing past projects, which is invariably accounted for as non-chargeable time, comes off a poor second best in this context.
Identifying what worked well also, by implication, identifies what did not work out so well. From there it is but a short-step to (actually or impliedly) criticising people for doing things ‘wrongly’ or ‘poorly’. Of course project reviews should not be designed to highlight individual failings, but even the possibility of implied (and perhaps unintended) criticism is enough to put many people off a project review process. The net effect of issues such as these – and there are lots of other reasons put forward for not reviewing projects – is that it often becomes easier for all concerned to let things slide and simply move on to the next project. This is a huge opportunity missed for process and project improvement. Constructive feedback is a prerequisite for continued improvement, so its delivery should be encouraged and receipt welcomed.
Last week I had a great time delivering an introductory course about legal project management, process improvement and productivity. The course was run under the auspices of Ark conferences, and attendees came from different law firms. All attendees were managers with respponsibility for either knowledge management or business development in their firm. As is usually the case with these kinds of events, attendees were asked to fill-in a feedback form. The delegate summary I received from Ark was:
Masterclass leader: Antony Smith
Please rate them out of 7 (7 being excellent, 1 being poor)
|Style||6.75||Good presenter, reacted to what our interests were and promoted discussion|
|Relaxed but well delivered|
|A good mixture of running through materials and allowing time for questions and discussion|
|Content||6.4||Really good summary, bringing it all together|
|Relevant content, struggled to fit it all in however|
|I would have liked copies of actual charts/example templates. Good content, good structure. Did not get bored.|
|Very good general overview of LPM concepts and application in practice.|
So while the delegates seemed to have learned quite a lot and enjoyed the learning experience, they have let me know there is still some room for improvement. I think this is an excellent example of an informative project review: praise mixed with constructive criticism (and I would like to thank those who attended for their company on the day and positive feedback thereafter).
Lawyers are running projects (ie legal cases) all the time, so there is always plenty to review. It is not necessary to have a formal legal project management or process improvement process in place in order to conduct project reviews. Gathering the delivery team together regularly and having an informal discussion about what works well and what does not, can help improve quality of work in future. It does not really matter whether these events are called process reviews or knowledge sharing, the purpose is the same: to identify and promote best practices.
The likelihood is that after a few of these meetings people start thinking of system improvement and one aspect of this is to have a slightly more formal scheme of project reviews as part of the delivery process. Approached correctly this is more likely to generate long lasting results. Regular project reviews, which could allow for some kind of tracking of (hopefully) improved delivery outcomes can benefit law firm staff and clients alike.
Needless to say, if you would like to find out more about legal project management, process improvement practices and productivity techniques please contact me either directly by telephone or email (see the header above) or via the contact form. I would be delighted to present a course to you and your colleagues (which could be tailored to your needs). Your feedback will always be welcome.