Preparing for a project review meeting with the boss
It’s been the sole focus of your working day for the past few weeks, months or maybe even years. But finally, it’s complete, it’s over, it’s done.
You’ve delivered that key project and you’re ready to dust yourself down and focus on the next one. Not so fast… it’s project review time!
Every great project needs a post-delivery review. Any project manager worth their salt will ensure to run a project review as the last step of completion. For bigger projects, you may even see reviews running at the end of major phases or milestones or on a pre-determined schedule.
Sometimes reviews will be a group activity, sometimes a series of one-on-ones. In most cases, the ideal is a mix of the two.
However often and in whatever guise your project review meetings happen, it’s important that you take an active role in them. To make a success of project review sessions, there are a few things you can do to support your project manager.
But let’s start with the basics…
What’s a project review meeting?
Project review meetings often referred to as Retrospectives, are meetings between project team members and a project manager to discuss the project experience.
They typically cover topics such as:
- What went well
- Blockers and issues
- Performance against initial targets
- Improvements for future projects
- Development opportunities for team members
At a minimum, they should be run at the conclusion of a project. However, depending on the project size, scope, and importance it may well be necessary for them to run periodically during the project too.
What’s the aim of a project review meeting?
Primarily, a project review is about understanding and improving performance and processes to make future projects successful.
It’s about learning where improvements can be made, money saved, efforts streamlined, and better approaches taken to make sure that the next project is at least as successful if not more so.
Your project manager may want to deep dive into your own performance, might want to look at where you excelled or struggled or perhaps, they’ll want your input on how the project went. Likely, they’ll probably dip into all of this and much more.
Project review preparation tips to help us fly
As a valued member of the project team, there’s plenty you can do to prepare for your next project review meeting. This preparation will help the session run smoothly and should improve outcomes too.
Review your project work and experience
The first, and most essential step in prepping for a project review meeting is to go reflect on your project experience.
Go over the work you carried out during the project (or since the last project review). Refresh yourself on the goals you started out with, your role within the team and the deliverable you worked on.
Make a note of anything you were particularly proud of or enjoyed. List out where you think you performed well and where you struggled. Think about the challenges you and the team faced, how they were resolved and what could be done to mitigate them next time.
Having a clear and fresh memory on the project will massively help you to focus on the key areas that you want to discuss during the review. The likelihood is the project spanned a fair amount of time, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to remember everything when asked on the spot with no pre-reflection.
Think about what you’d like to get out of the review
Yes, the project review is being run by your project manager, and yes, its prime focus is on improving future projects. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also about you and your development.
Have a think about what you’d like to discuss in the meeting and what you’d like to get from it.
It might be that you felt a key skill required for the meeting was missing and you’d like to learn it. Or maybe you see an opportunity to take on more responsibility and would like to discuss it.
List out any key points you’d like to go over and make sure you add them to the agenda or let your PM know.
This is arguably the most important project review preparation step you can take.
Casting a critical eye over your own performance can help you identify weaknesses and strengths that may be a key talking point in your review meeting. It will also reduce the likelihood of any piece of feedback catching you off guard.
Focus on a few key areas such as:
- Communication skills
Speak to fellow project teammates
You can’t be everywhere at once and therefore you may not be aware of key pieces of information or have knowledge gaps.
By speaking to a few teammates, you’ll likely develop a more rounded view of the project as a whole. You can see if your memory of events or view on them is accurate and fair. You can get a clearer understanding of why the project panned out the way it did.
It’s worth speaking to two or three members of the team, even briefly, just to ensure you’ve got a clear picture of things. If your company has a tool for 360-degree feedback, this is a perfect opportunity to request some.
Think about goals for the future
Would you take a different approach to a particular part of the project were you to run it again? Or maybe a skill gap needs addressing?
Whatever it’s you’d look to do differently next time, make a personal goal plan off the back of it and discuss this with your PM.
A huge element of the project review meetings should be about how you develop yourself. Having a few ideas on where you’d focus prior to the meeting will help when it comes to discussing plans.
Are there any burning questions you want to ask?
It sounds simple and obvious, but make sure you make a list of the questions you want to ask prior to the meeting.
Often our thought process gets interrupted during review meetings like this, and we leave with several questions running through our brains.
Come armed to the meeting with a list of any key questions, observations, or comments you were keen to ask/make. Ensure your PM gives you time to ask each and provides an answer.