What Did You Learn?
This isn't necessarily “Where did we go wrong?” because sometimes even a successfully completed task could be the starting point for a new and improved method of doing a particular job. Trial and error often produce positive results. These results, however, are sometimes overlooked because everyone involved is preoccupied with looking for negative factors. Wally Bock, a consultant, speaker, and publisher whose helpful ideas are found at
The end product can be, and often is, run through a series of tests and analyses. Even after the product or service hits the market, there will be a great deal of evaluation and reviews. Today, a successful company is one that continually plans ahead. As soon as a new product is created, the next new one is in the planning stages, particularly in the technology field. Project feedback and evaluation will guide the company into improvements on existing products and services as well as guidelines or suggestions for handling future endeavors.
The team can provide initial feedback. Feedback will also come from stakeholders, customers, clients, the media, and other sources. If the team's initial reaction is similar to the external feedback, then the team was very well aware of how it could improve upon a successful product and has made a good assessment of its work.
Identify the positives, even on a project that failed. Look for constructive suggestions on how a task might evolve from the project and be used more effectively in the future. A company may fail with its initial e-commerce business plan, but still learn enough about the potential power of the Web to produce a successful strategy for its next venture. You can have very successful battles even while losing the war.
Let's say that a team was pulled together to research and produce a new soft drink. The team successfully produced a new drink that satisfied the management and sponsors; however, the team still thought that the drink could be less dry. The product was a success and customers enjoyed it, but the comment the company received most often was that the soda was a little too dry. In this case, the team itself knew what would have improved the product.
Internal changes are easier to identify than external changes because they directly affect the project. External changes, those that affect the stakeholders, customers, and others associated with the project, will require outside evaluation and feedback. Aspects of the final product connect with the external world and need evaluation on several levels. When the project is to create something brand-new, there is a risk that others won't be as satisfied with the product or service as the sponsors or management. No matter how much test marketing is done, there is still the chance that the project champion's idea will not be embraced by the intended market. Focus groups are essential for gauging the possible success of a new product or service.
It is always in your best interest to get outside feedback at various stages of production. Unless it's a top-secret project, it is usually beneficial to get feedback from people who are familiar with the project but not involved with the day-to-day process. Sometimes, an outside contractor who has been involved with the project can also provide good feedback along the way. He or she can see it from a different perspective. One of the most common postproject determinations is that there was a need for more testing. Ongoing tests, reviews, and evaluations are critical.