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Journal Article

Evaluating the Evaluations: Preconceptions of Project Post‑Mortems  pp65-72

John McAvoy

© Nov 2006 Volume 9 Issue 2, Editor: Dan Remenyi, pp45 - 104

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For future projects to improve, it is necessary to evaluate the lessons from previous projects. The majority of software methodologies recommend a review of the project to evaluate what worked and what needs improvement. These reviews are commonly referred to as project post‑mortems. Existing research into post‑mortems has found problems with the actual process itself and the use of the output from the process — the lessons learned. This research examines project post‑mortems before the post‑mortem has occurred — it is an examination of the beliefs and attitudes that project members bring with them into post‑mortems. These attitudes can ultimately cause the failure of a post‑ mortem, even before it has begun. It is somewhat paradoxical that team members initially espoused positive views about post‑mortems in a survey, yet further examination of key informants showed that these espoused views did not translate into reality. It is shown how hierarchical groupthink can help to forge negative beliefs and attitudes about post‑mortems that will have a detrimental affect on the process itself.


Keywords: project evaluation, hierarchical groupthink, project post-mortem, espoused theory


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