3

Scenario: I've been working for half a year on a small project with a team of two people. They are working in a foreign country, so most of the time we worked via video conference tool.

While those tools work well for providing information, feedback and giving directions, I don't think these are great tools for activities which require more bi-directional and/or longer interaction, whether it is a brainstorming activity or in this case, a project postmortem.

Problem: The project will ends in a few days, and we will not have any face-to-face meeting for another two months. I think that a postmortem should be done quickly after the end of the project, while the project is still present in the team's mind.

Question: What is most important for conducting the postmortem of a project, use a conferencing solutions to perform the postmortem remotely or wait for two months until the team can meet in person? Secondly, since I have to choose between these two options, how can I mitigate the negative effects of doing it late or doing it through a communication tool?

1

What is most important for conducting the postmortem of a project, use a conferencing solutions to perform the postmortem remotely or wait for two months until the team can meet in person?

Personally, I think meeting people in person breaks down a lot of barriers and empowers each person to contribute to the discussion. In my own experience, I've seen people in video conferencing get distracted or nod off (no joke) during a conference. I'm sure there are plenty of examples out there where this has worked well, I just haven't encountered any.

While the above is more of a critique on remote conferencing vs face-to-face meetings, I feel you could make use of both for your particular problem with the addition of a few other communication mediums that you haven't mentioned.

First, you could have a conference to highlight the key areas you want to address in the post-mortem to keep the team's attention focused. Secondly, you could employ a wiki for each member to contribute thoughts, ideas, or whatever you want them to put forward. When the time comes to have a meeting in person, you can review the content posted on the wiki. It is important that all team members contribute to this as anyone not doing so is liable to forget or take a while to come back up to speed (depending on the size of the problem and their level of involvement).

The second part of your question on how to mitigate these problems can be addressed in a variety of ways. In your example, I've gone under the assumption the project has followed a waterfall development approach and you are now wanting to review the project. If you follow an agile approach, you can have project retrospectives at the end of each sprint to discuss where the project is heading and things you want to improve. I've found retrospectives to be extremely important, but most companies I have worked for don't seem to take them very seriously and communication breaks down bringing my team into a situation not too dissimilar from your own.

A supplementary strategy you could employ is to make use of a wiki. Create a post-mortem section for the project and ensure all team members contribute to it and review it.

Remote teamwork is all too common and it's very easy for people to forget there are other people in the same team, working remotely, which is why face-to-face meetings are important to put faces to names and break down barriers. What I believe you want to do is encourage communication within a team by give them as many communication mediums as possible.

  • Very interesting, I thought about putting the results of the meeting on a wiki, but not preparing the meeting thanks to our wiki. You're right about waterfall, we have some agile projects, but this one was not (all requirements fixed at the beginning) – gvo Jul 7 '15 at 12:25
3

what is the most important for conducting the postmortem of my project, meeting "physically" or not doing it two months after?

Since you are doing everything over video link (I assume using skype or similar), then you should be quite comfortable doing it that way. The physical presence is not really necessary.

But it is important to conduct it as soon as possible, while you all know what problems in the process you faced, and what needs to be changed.

how can I mitigate the negative effects of doing it late or doing it through a communication tool?

Writing down list of problems, as a reminder, would be a way, if you decide to wait for so long. Or adding // TODO comments in the code, if there wasn't enough time to do refactoring.

I am not aware of negative effects of holding a meeting using a communication tool. I do it weekly using lync, and (except for occasionally bad connection), it works fine. You can share desktop if you need to show something, and you see people.

It may require a bit of additional preparation, like creating additional diagrams, but basically it works as you are in one big room.

  • By "lynx", do you mean "Lync"? – Arseni Mourzenko Jul 7 '15 at 11:33
  • You're assumption is right, except that we don't use video, maybe it helps. I can present something (prepared content), but it's unidirectional. I have some ideas, but I'm looking for others' also, and I hope some new ideas (about actions to take for instance) will emerge. I consider more difficult to capture and work on those without sharing the same physical space and stuff like a paper board. – gvo Jul 7 '15 at 11:36
  • 1
    @gvo Then you need to improve the tools. Try video conference. You can even share documents, and see changes in "real time". – BЈовић Jul 7 '15 at 11:49
  • @BЈовић Ok, I'll try for this on another meeting before, to see whether it helps me or not. – gvo Jul 7 '15 at 11:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.