Good, Bad, or Indifferent … Project “Post-Mortem”

In our course e-book, The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects, Michael Greer states, “It’s important for project managers and team members to take stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the next project” (Greer, 2010, p. 42). We must always be learning from our successes and our failures. If we do not take stock of what occurred, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and not understand what caused the success so it could possibly be replicated in the future.

When I was hired at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, as new teachers, we were told we needed to join in activities and committees to become part of the culture of the school. As a result, I found myself on the Curriculum Committee. I became a teacher later in life and was very interested in making my classroom the best it could be, and I believed (still do) that part of that is understanding how the curriculum is put together. I even completed a Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment to make myself a better teacher. I hope all that hard work has translated into better learning experiences for my students.

At that time, the Curriculum Committee was tasked with updating all curriculums in the school as it had not been done for years. During the first few meetings, I did “hang back” as I was in the learning phase and not quite sure what my role should be within the committee. During the planning stages, an issue of how to track the different curriculum and stages of creation and approval came up in discussion. As I had experience as a secretary tracking large amounts of data, I went back to my desk after the meeting and worked on a method of tracking using Excel. When I had it created to the best of my knowledge and skills, I went to the committee chair people and showed them what I had configured. They were pleasantly surprised and sat with me to figure out what I was missing, what was not needed, and how to show the columns in the correct order. At the next meeting, we presented it to the committee, and everyone was very happy to having a tracking device. Thus, it became my job to keep it up to date.

As the curriculum started to come in and go through the approval process, the committee wanted to have an online method of showing and updating the curriculum so it would become a living document and not just sitting on the shelf. Other members of the committee looked into various web sites and methods. It was finally decided to use a site called Taskstream. I was chosen as one the people to be trained in its use so I could help train the other teachers. We put a lot of time and effort into the process, but in the end, it was not exactly what we were looking for. One of the major issues we did not take into account was the lack of spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills of our fellow teachers. We were shocked at the lack of attention to detail that occurred when everyone was entering their own curriculum. Someone (or more than one person) was going to have to be appointed to review the documents and edit them. Part of the goal was to put the curriculum on our school web site, accessible to parents and community members. In this state, it was not possible; it would not make our teachers look professional.

After two years, it was decided that Taskstream was not working for us, and we would have to look for a different method of keeping the curriculum as a living document. Teachers were becoming too frustrated with the limitations of the web site and also with technical difficulties when using the site. Eventually, we moved to a wiki for the curriculum (, which has been successful in keeping the documents accessible. There are members of the staff dedicated to putting the information up on the wiki. The process has changed so that the curriculum goes to the supervisor first, who reviews it and sends it back to the individual staff member for revisions, if necessary.

As a committee, we attempted to follow a process, but I am not sure anyone on the committee had any true project management experience on the level that we were dealing with. It was such a huge undertaking that I do not believe we realized it at first. We were constantly looking at what we could do to make it easier on the staff, supervisors, committee members, and administration to ensure accuracy and accessibility. A lot of what we did was trial and error. In the end, after a few years, we had it down to a process that was successful, but it took a lot of time to get there. Staff members were getting discouraged when we changed processes for getting the information and methods for inputting the information. There was a lot of grumbling at times, but we all made it through and have living documentation of the curriculum, which hopefully can be updated on a regular basis.

Below I have embedded a YouTube video that shows what a bad project meeting could look like.


Beinerts, L. (2014, March 23). The expert (short comedy sketch) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough pm to rock your projects! Laureate International Universities.

7 thoughts on “Good, Bad, or Indifferent … Project “Post-Mortem”

  1. Hi Christine,
    That’s quite some ups-and-downs you had to go through back there. Indeed, we sometimes get thrust into situations we;re not really quite prepared for and end up having to dig deep into our experience and intuitive thoughts to pull ourselves out of sticky or dead-spots. It pays to have some background knowledge and skills in a variety of areas at such times, as your discussion shows. Should I say there was some rapid prototyping in your design process? Seems you had quite some making, adjusting or scrapping and remaking to do before the final product addressed the identified needs. You also seemed to be engaged in both and ID and a PM role in this scenario.
    Anyway, I missed how you relate the scenario to the PM process or identified the steps that could have been included to avoid the pitfalls experienced with the project. Please, redirect me if possible.
    One other thing … I like the humor you provided in that video; a whole bunch of confused team members and stakeholders, if you ask me!
    Great blog, though.


    • I am sorry I was not clear. There truly was no PM process to the whole project. It was trial and error mostly. I hope I never have to fly by the seat of my pants on such a big project again. Two years after we thought we had it down, another supervisor decided it would be better as a wiki and started the craziness again. I was left out of that particular process.

  2. Project management is being viewed as the ‘new’ form of management which enables groups to integrate, plan, and control projects in order to improve overall performance.
    To new teams cater to this demand and to make any project more relevant to the reality of the situation. We learn these skills and broaden emphasis of project management in the work place without it formally declared as such. It teaches us both human and technical skills, and of course a few bumps along the way.

  3. Christine, I too feel your past experiences are you most important assets when it comes to your career. From our success, but more importantly from our failures. “No one can always have complete success without some failure to season our experiences” (De La Vega, 2014). The president of retail operations said the previous quote in a Leading with Distinction conference this year and I felt it was very appropriate for the topic at hand. We are better when we have seen and experienced what can go wrong in a project so next time we are ready for the problems and then we can handle them properly. I like problem free work, but I never learn anything unless there is some mis-steps or wrong turns. We need them to teach us to take the write path the next time around. To add to that we cannot just learn from ourselves, we need others to learn from. Most everything I have learned I have experienced from others and received guidance on how to handle the issue. I would be lost without my peers and I hope that I can be a reliable resource to others someday.

    De La Vega, R. (2014) Leading with Distinction: Virtual Management and the Business of Doing Business. Atlanta, GA. AT&T University.

  4. Christine,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I think your collaboration with your co-workers to create that tracking document definitely improved the project success. Your collaboration falls within what Portny et al. (2008) call “Win-Win Negotiating”. “Win-Win negotiation involves taking a creative, collaborative approach to solving problems” (pg. 8).

    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc

  5. Christine,
    Your experience with the RVRHS curriculum reminded me when THS went through similar circumstances. The school had to report the curriculum to FCIS (Florida Council of Independent Schools). The School Director approached it in a different way. He first emailed the curriculum template to the faculty. Then he collected the curriculums, and he and the School Principal proofread and corrected them before to turn them in to FCIS. In your case, the assumption of getting good written curriculums was a pitfall. We as project managers have to include assumptions in the Statement of Work (Portny et al., 2008). However, we have to be aware if the assumptions are correct. If not, we have to make the appropriate changes like you did it.
    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  6. Christine: It’s interesting to see the many ways in which having a previous career can come in handy on your new job. It’s neat that a need arose for which you had experience in, and you could just plug your know-how into a viable solution. However, I like that you illustrate in your review that it wasn’t just your work that created the solution, but also the tweaks and feedback from several other faculty members to make changes to the Excel layout itself as well as the process for updating it. Walden University uses Tasksteam for students to upload their E-Portfolios, and it is a fairly nice website, but it can be limited in customization. When I completed my bachelors, I created a website for myself and decided to showcase my work there instead ( It’s a little shocking that you had such problems with editing, but not too shocking. I’m sure most of the mistakes were on account of time constraints and faculty didn’t want to spend a lot of time to edit their course curricula descriptions. It seems that feedback integration and cooperative trial-and-error was essential to the eventual success of the task tracking project. It’s a good reminder that we don’t always have to get it right on the first try.

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