So for those that don’t know what a Post-Mortem is, here is a quick explanation:

After you launch a site update, new product, at the end of a quarter or basically at any point you have a team that worked on something or together sit down. The goal is to break down processes and how teams/people worked together to figure out how to be better, faster, and more efficient in the future.

4 Key Steps to Running a Post-Mortem

  1. Set Expectations Early
  2. Discuss What Went Well
  3. Discuss What Needs Improvement
  4. Create an Action Plan

Post-Mortem Questions To Ask

Here are some quick tips or ideas on questions to as during your meeting(s).

  • Create an anonymous form.
  • Ask what went well.
  • Ask what went badly.
  • Ask what could be improved.

Post-Mortem Resources

Lastly if you are thinking “well how do I structure or start” this process? What and where do I document it? Take a look at this post-mortem report template.

Full Transcription

Matt Siltala: [00:00:00] Welcome to another exciting episode of the business of digital podcast, featuring your host, Matt scintilla and Dave roar. Hey guys, excited to be here with you on another one of these episodes. Uh, how’s it going, Dave?

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:16] It is good. And we’re going to talk about the sexy topic of project management today.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:21] Oh, come on. I like the title better. Why you should conduct a post-mortem

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:26] or tips for a successful post-mortem or why you should do it, even though it’s painful and annoying and sucks and isn’t fun.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:37] Did

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:37] I, did I sell you on why you should do one yet?

Matt Siltala: [00:00:39] Did we sell you on why you should listen,

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:43] like click next?

Matt Siltala: [00:00:44] No, it actually is going to be very useful when, when the. And maybe you should take this opportunity to jump into how you’ve explained it to me as well and what you want to share. It actually is going to be quite a useful episode for a lot of people, I believe.

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:59] Yeah. [00:01:00] And we’ve got two great, um, resources that always, um, one from the Nielsen Norman group and one for important.

Matt Siltala: [00:01:08] Ian always is the man with his info.

Dave Rohrer: [00:01:11] We just need to like, I don’t even know. There’s. The Fortinet article we’d literally just found this morning was not even one of the ideas that foster like spurred it, but it’s a great resource that walks you through the 11 steps. Um, but I think anytime, and this isn’t just for agencies, although I think more agencies should do it, we used to do it at  every so often.

Um, it was. Sometimes painful, sometimes not. Depending on the project. If, you know, if it was a successful project, it’s less painful. Of course, if it’s a not successful project that’s kind of painful. A lot more painful. Well, yeah, cause everyone’s pointing fingers. It’s a sports analogy. Like how many times have the bear sign someone and everyone’s like, [00:02:00] yeah.

And then, you know, two years later, you know, we got a new coach or, um, you know, we’re suddenly looking for a new quarterback or. Oh, well, I’m the bears fan. We’re always looking for a new quarterback. Ever since I remember, ever since I was a bears fan, we’ve been looking for a new quarterback. Um, but there’s always finger pointing.

It’s like, Oh, it’s the GMs fault. It’s them fault. Well, it’s like what was the process? And so what this post-mortem is supposed to do is pick out the good so that when the next project comes up. You do the good and figure out what screw, what, who, not who, but what got screwed up and where and why, so that in the next project it doesn’t happen.

See how simple that is.

Matt Siltala: [00:02:44] Very. I mean, you know, I’m looking at the notes here and you have four. You have your four main steps and you’re talking about 11 steps and other plates? No.

Dave Rohrer: [00:02:53] Well, there was four steps in that one, and then there was 11 tips. Gotcha. So four steps, 11 tips.

Matt Siltala: [00:02:59] Well, [00:03:00] when I was, what I was thinking was how this would be very useful if you are a one man shop.

Um, because a lot of times, you know, you, you, you just, you’re focused on the task and you, and you get this done. Like your goal is, okay, I got to get this content out, or I gotta get. This thing made, or I got to get this design done, or I got it. You know what I mean? Like you just have these tests and then you’re onto the next one.

It’s just how it is. You’re like, boom, boom, boom, got to get these dead. Um, but this gives you the opportunity to actually go back and see what you did right, what you did wrong, what you could have done better. And it gives you the opportunity to audit that process and also figure out how to do it better.

Because if you’re not doing that, you’re never going to figure that stuff out. So.

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:45] And I think we all do this to some extent, like yard work. Like I’m just looking at the yard and stuff. I have to do, of course. Um, you know, mowing the lawn. We’ll just say mowing the lawn. Matt doesn’t really have a lawn, so this doesn’t, this isn’t applicable

[00:04:00] Matt Siltala: [00:04:01] to two boys too.


Dave Rohrer: [00:04:02] yeah, I know. Well, even for them it’s like, all right, well if I start on this side and I mow this way, I can, you know, I only have to bag it here. I only have to do this. I think we all do. Postmortems after projects and it’s like, wow, that took me way too long. How can I do it quicker next time? Or we think, you know, Oh, I made this project and I thought it was only going to take me two hours to complete this, but it took me two and a half.

Why? And we kind of run through this process and go, okay, what? Where, where did I get hung up at? Oh, well, when I was trying to do that, is there a better way to do that? I’m

Matt Siltala: [00:04:39] always doing this with like the smoke in the meat and of course bringing it up. But like, it’s perfect to example, like I have gotten so much better from the first time cause I learned stuff every single smoke.

You know what I mean?

Dave Rohrer: [00:04:52] And I think that is the goal of this, but it gets harder when it’s a one person. I think you should do it, but I think you should actually [00:05:00] formally do it and write it down. So that next time when you work on that project or you know, say you only do. A link audit for clients once a quarter or you only do a technical audit once a quarter or once a month.

Matt Siltala: [00:05:14] Well, you know, and, and, and here’s the really, here’s something I thought about too, David, and sorry to interrupt, but like, um, something I thought about while you’re doing this as is, you know, we kind of do this already, but do we write it down and do we, do we make something formal out of it? Cause I was thinking, all right, well I look back to back in the day when, you know, we still do a lot of infographics and just kind of create content that.

You know, is quote unquote, more of the type of content that can go viral or get a lot of, you know, people talking about it, linking, commenting on it, news, picking it up, et cetera, things like that. But every time you put one of those out, you think of how can. I improve this? Or like

Dave Rohrer: [00:05:55] how can you replicate it?


Matt Siltala: [00:05:56] exactly. How can you wrap your it? How can you make this better? [00:06:00] Why did this person pick it up this time? I put out this specific topic or it was very similar to something that was done previously. Exactly. So I mean more to your point and, and, and finish your thought, but that’s like kind of just what I was thinking of is, has been done in our case.

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:21] Whether for one person, I think we just need to formally do it and sit down so that when you go back to that project in three weeks or three months, or three years or whatever it is, you don’t forget or you don’t, you know, you don’t repeat the same mistake. But I think with teams, which is even more important when you have two, three, four, five, eight people that manage other people and other resources, and.

You know, you’re, you’re working with this PR agency to do this part. You have a dev contractor, you have an internal writer, and you have this other [00:07:00] approval person internally. So you’ve got all these different people, some report to you, some don’t. Some can do whatever they want. You know, where, where was the breakdowns?

Was it in communication? Was it in, we didn’t tell this contractor exactly what to do. Maybe we had scope Creek because the approver. Didn’t approve things and just kept changing their mind and you know, do you want to figure out, and the four steps are set expectations early, discuss what went well, discuss what needs improvement and create an action plan.

And I think the hardest part of these is always not to point fingers.

Matt Siltala: [00:07:37] Yeah.

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:39] Cause it’s like, well Lucy didn’t do her job and you know, Jeff over there. Decided not to do it until the last minute. So it’s, they screwed up everyone. Well, why? Well, because Jeff had 50 other things going on. Okay, so where did we fail?

Well, we failed in managing and understanding his other [00:08:00] priorities. And why did Lucy go? Well, you know, the project manager forgot to ask her when her vacation was, and we assigned her this very important, timely task while she was on vacation and she didn’t even know. Okay. Well then not really Lucy’s fault.

It’s us not asking questions about who has time off. Okay, well, next project we do, perhaps we should understand who has vacation time, who was travel, who was other priorities and other projects going on. And, but you know, and I know it’s always, it was always hard to point, not point fingers. Um, it’s just easier than to take, you know, but I think that’s where.

The goal is, is that the next time you have a project and you work with all these different groups, you just don’t repeat it. And it’s not just for agencies, but I think agencies should do it. Um, to understand is it, is it a communication issue with the [00:09:00] client? Like why did, why did something get set back five times?

Yeah. Like when you guys are working with clients on graphics.

Matt Siltala: [00:09:10] Well. Yeah, and that’s what I was going to say. I think that it also helps you do things like, you know, for example, when I’m thinking about all this, you know, you create systems and better tools in place, like, you

Dave Rohrer: [00:09:20] know, for revisions.

Matt Siltala: [00:09:22] Oh yeah, exactly.

Well, that’s, that’s just it. You know, instead of, instead of, Hey, why is this continuing to come back? Well, let’s have a document put together that kind of helps them give us all their feedback. If one of our pain points. That we find from all these is because of revisions or because of this or that. Well, let’s address that from the start and let’s set expectations properly.

Like, you know, you have number one, setting the expectations early, but that helps. You can, that helps you create the kind of systems and processes that can be put in place. Like you give them [00:10:00] stuff to make them feel like they’re a part of it from the beginning, and that helps things down the road. At least that’s what we’ve experienced.

Dave Rohrer: [00:10:07] Well, and some of, oops, sorry. Go ahead.

Matt Siltala: [00:10:09] Oh, no, no, go ahead.

Dave Rohrer: [00:10:11] I was going to see some of my documents that over the last couple of years, um, have come to be what they are now, because I would always deliver an audit and we would go over it. And the very first question was, what’s the priority? Well, I had some prioritization in it and I would document it in there, but it just got to the point where they’re like, well, I want a checklist.

I was like, okay, so now every audit I give, the very first thing is not a summary, cause no one’s gonna read it. No one cares. It’s just a checklist. It’s a checklist of every item I found with the prioritization,

Matt Siltala: [00:10:46] and that’s if 90% of the people are coming back to you saying, this is what we want, then voting.

Exactly. It makes it easier on you. Less

Dave Rohrer: [00:10:55] in the same thing. I had another deliverable around keyword research that I always used to do and I [00:11:00] liked it, but I knew it had, it wasn’t perfect. And over the years, um, I still don’t think it’s perfect, but it’s very usable. And I’ve found that it’s a great way for me to deliver that deliverable, that that content, that, um, direction that they are looking for in the way that I’ve figured out how to do it.

And that came through trial and error feedback. Me sitting down going, okay. What do they like? What don’t they like? How do they use it? You know, I’ve gotten feedback on how they actually use this or don’t use it. Where can I improve? And that for me was the postmortem was more of the, what’s the feedback of the end result?

Like not really my process because my process to get there was the same, but it’s like what? How I package it and deliver. It needs to change. There’s something wrong there. There’s a way, there’s an opportunity to improve. What is it. And that’s [00:12:00] where I worked on.

Matt Siltala: [00:12:02] Yeah. I mean, I think that’s, that’s all great.

And that helps you get to the point where, well, and, and from what I’ve seen, a lot of times that we’ve had issues, Dave, is, is when, you know, clients aren’t as involved as, you know, that they need to be in. This helps get them more involved in those kinds of processes as well. And so I think that helps the overall process too.


those are just some thoughts. Yeah.

Dave Rohrer: [00:12:27] I was looking at the, the, the tips of lists, cause I’m trying not to read them, but now I’m looking at it. Um, I think, yeah, there’s a good one. Number four is create an agenda. I think use a Google form before you have one of these and ask questions and whatever the project is asking, you know, what do you think worked?

What do you think, not worked and make it anonymous. And if you have eight people in the group, just to make sure that, you know. You just say, we’re not going to meet until there’s eight. And [00:13:00] also, you know, no one gets their bonus until we do this. Or you know, you know, you need to do this by Wednesday, and if all eight aren’t in there, we’re all sitting in a room and we’re doing it and you know, there’ll be consequences or something.

But have everyone fill this out anonymously and then walk through it and in the agenda, walk through and go, okay, what worked. Okay, great. That was good. This was good. So we really liked this vendor. We really liked this process, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then, you know, walk through what didn’t work, but also walk through the project, the scope, working with internal clients.

Like maybe there’s just a person internally that, like you talked about, like there’s always revisions or there’s always something that comes up. How can we combat that? What documentation can we have? Yeah. And in the past when I was in house, it got to the point where we would have six people asking for things outside of the marketing department.

And so [00:14:00] we ended up creating, okay, change a site change request form. So if you wanted something changed on the website and it was on the marketing side of the website, you had to fill out this form. You had to do screenshots, you have to give us a URL, you have to tell us exactly what was wrong or what was being changed and exactly what you wanted and when the date was like when you needed it by when you would like it by.

Well, because we would just get people emailing stuff over or telling it to one person saying, Hey, can you put this in the next, you know, sprint, can you put this in the next update to the site? Yeah. And it’s like, well, we also have these other 20 things we’re trying to do, you know? And then it also put them on the hook to QA it because we would do some postmortems there.

And we found out that we were making changes in dev and staging, never getting a final approval and then just not moving it. Or we would move [00:15:00] it and then they would tell us it was wrong. Like, well, okay, well then now. Our post-mortem basically was, well, if you don’t approve it and test and staging, and I don’t have an email that says you approve it, it doesn’t go live.

And you know when people think when people have a deadline and because they don’t check their email and they don’t tell you that they approve something, it doesn’t go up there. And then you show them and they take it to the superiors and they basically go, so here were the directions. Here’s what you were supposed to do.

You failed, and now you’re mad at them. Yeah. You’re like, yeah, told you. Yep. Like we’re not going to push it live cause you didn’t approve it.

Matt Siltala: [00:15:39] Yeah.

Dave Rohrer: [00:15:40] Like I’ll take the heat for not pushing it live if you didn’t approve it or if it goes up and you approved it and it’s the same on dev and the steam on staging and the same in production.

Yet you’re yelling at me. It’s like, well, you approved it and QA did. You know, it’s, it’s a bit of S, you know, [00:16:00] CYA. But it’s also just trying to streamline and create processes and not waste everyone’s time. And I think that’s what some of the postmortems can help you do. And not just, you know, point fingers.

But I think it can help people streamline internal processes. We’re just dealing with like a consultant. Like if you have a team of five people and they work with avalanche, or you know, maybe you’re a smaller team and you work with me. And you do you, you know, after two months, we’re like, okay, what? We send you random emails, but you don’t answer like, well, I do, but you know, I always have to follow up with more questions or, or, you know, you always tell, give me, asked me to do something, but I don’t have access to something.

Matt Siltala: [00:16:46] Right.

Dave Rohrer: [00:16:48] Um, or you tell a writer to write something, but you never tell him what the purpose is, what the keywords targets are, what to link to. Like you give them no direction.

Matt Siltala: [00:16:59] And this is [00:17:00] all the kind of stuff that you could be figuring out if you’re, yeah, it is. Exactly. So, all right. Well, um, any final thoughts on this?

Any, any last minute tips that you want to share?

Dave Rohrer: [00:17:14] Nope. I think the two resources we’ll include have, um, good steps they’ll walk you through and then, um, additional 11 tips on top of what we just talked about. That’ll walk you through trying to do one. Um, I think start small, start with internal small projects and I think they can really help you save time.

I mean, think about if you have four people on a project and instead of each of them spending three or four hours on a project, they spend two on that same type of project next time, much better. Or even, or even three instead of four. I mean, you just saved four hours of work. Now they can do, you know, five projects instead of four.

Like that. I mean. Very true. The ROI is huge, but also just the cost savings and wasting printing and time and stuff. [00:18:00] So, all right. That’s all I got.

Matt Siltala: [00:18:03] Excellent, sir. Thank you very much for sharing those insights. Hopefully you guys got something from that, um, and why you should be conducting your own postmortems.

And so, um, just want to give her a reminder. Everybody, we’re out there pretty much everywhere that you can find us. Like Spotify. Google plus iTunes, lots of places you see them on the website

Dave Rohrer: [00:18:24] box. I’m just trying to think. Yeah,

Matt Siltala: [00:18:26] just make sure you go to Spotify or actually let’s do Google plus this time, or as I say,

Dave Rohrer: [00:18:34] plus

Matt Siltala: [00:18:35] Google play, scratch all that.

Go to Google play and give us a five star review if you liked this and if we’ve provided some value for you. So for Dave, roar with Northside metrics. I’m Matt soulful with avalanche media and thanks guys for joining us.

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