project post-mortem

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Project management strategies that transform businesses: A CIO guide
Contributor(s): Emily McLaughlin

A project post-mortem, also called a project retrospective, is a process for evaluating the success (or failure) of a project's ability to meet business goals. 

A typical post-mortem meeting begins with a restatement of the project's scope. Team members and business owners are then asked by a facilitator to share answers to the following questions:

  • What worked well for the team?
  • What did not work well for the team?

The facilitator may solicit quantitative data related to cost management or qualitative data such as perceived quality of the end product. Ideally, the feedback gathered from a project post-mortem will be used to ensure continuous improvement and improve the management of future projects. 

Post-mortems are generally conducted at the end of the project process, but are also useful at the end of each stage of a multi-phase project. The term post-mortem literally means "after death."  In medicine, the term is used to describe an examination of a dead body in order to discover the cause of death.

See also: Agile retrospective, six thinking hats retrospective, peer review

This was last updated in October 2013

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