Project Evaluations

figure 1: Result evaluations rather than Project evaluations

Many organizations mandate a Project Evaluation at the end of every project. Some call it Retrospective and some even call it Post Mortem Analysis.

Even so, few projects do the actual evaluation because they feel that these evaluations do not really contribute to better results. Why is this?

Consider a one-year project (see figure 1). People have to evaluate what went wrong and what went right (many things go accidentally right) and why, as long as a year ago. If something happened three months into the project, we have to remember it nine months later and think how we could do things better. Three months into the next project, we have to remember that we were going to do something differently, hopefully better. Result: the previous project didn't benefit, because we thought about doing things better only after the project. In practice, the next project doesn't benefit either, because we don't timely remember our evaluation decisions.

So, the principle seems right: as with PDCA first we Plan the project, then we Do things, then we Check what we could have done better, and in the Act-phase we decide what to do differently the next time. But in practice it doesn't really help us. The time-frame isn't tuned to our capabilities. How can we tune this process, that is right in principle, to work for us?

How about doing an Evaluation every week? It is already difficult to remember what happened in the past week. Do you remember what you had for dinner 4 day's ago? Most people don't. Well, you don't really have to know, unless you're the cook. But let's not overdo it.

If we evaluate every week, now PDCA starts to work for us:

  • If we tune our mind to remembering what went wrong and what went right the past week, it's not too difficult to remember it1 for evaluation by the end of the week
  • Not too much happens in one week, so the evaluation doesn't have to take long (unless it has to)
  • Because most types of work take more than one week, we can try out our idea to improve immediately the next week. One week later we can check: Was the result better? If yes, can and should we do it better? If no, can and should we do it better?
  • Because we actually do it differently the next week, the new way of working becomes internalized

Now the evaluation is tuned to our human capabilities and needs, and it starts to work for us.

  1. Some people use a whiteboard, or a post-it to catch the issue when it happens, so that they don't forget to evaluate it.