I recently facilitated a review of a joint bidding process between an academic organisation and a small business organisation. A significant level of resource was invested in this bid over the summer. Unfortunately, the group ran out of time, and missed the deadline for submitting their bid.

The review process

The group needed to identify why their bid wasn’t submitted on time, and what could be learnt for the future, so I facilitated an after action review (AAR) for them. I decided to use a review format which I hadn’t used much before, however I thought it would work well in this situation. The review questions we explored were:

This is a useful process for reviewing a project that didn’t go as expected, because it compares the plan to the reality. Like all good reviews, the group stayed focused on the challenges in the system, avoiding any naming and shaming. I also captured their feedback on flip-chart to keep things visible.

Review outputs

Using these approaches, the group identified 33 outputs and Next Steps in just over an hour, and we finished ahead of time. The outputs were assigned owners and some of them will be constructively addressed with wider stakeholders including the government provider.

The outputs that we recorded included;

  • lack of clarity on roles across collaborators (who was in charge?)
  • invisibility of online documents
  • the peak holiday season meant that meetings an collaboration were fragmented

The benefits of reviews

The benefits include:

  • review (or check), is a vital element of Deming’s continuous improvement loop – plan, do, check, act
  • sharing strengths and weaknesses improved empathy and rapport among the group
  • the review process kept the group discussion objective and positive
  • the learning can be incorporated into risks next time round to improve future approaches

Further information

The review I facilitated was to look at a relatively short project. Some projects last months, or even years, and involve significant resources – leaders, teams and funding to plan and deliver what is required. In such cases a more in-depth review like a Post Implementation Review (PIR) would be suitable.  A PIR therefore extracts a more detailed learning from the project outcomes. See this link from Mindtools for more information on PIRs.

Deming’s PDCA loop is actually an overarching philosophy, that encourages ‘continual’planning and reviewing, not just ‘doing’. However, he also advocates that reviews should be structured, so in reality they need to be planned as a separate post-improvement process. If you want to learn more about Deming’s PDCA cycle of continuous improvement see this link from Mindtools.

If you’ve recently been part of a project or activity that didn’t go as well as you had hoped, perhaps this review format would work for you too. Contact us at https://losethebox.co.uk if you would like to discuss. Alternatively phone us on 07824 660120, or email us at info@losethebox.co.uk.

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