Post-Project Reviews: A Practical Tactic to Nurture Expertise

Learning is a foundational part of Gauge culture. In our ten years of business, we’ve learned the power of exposing ourselves to new ideas and perspectives. Inspiration can come from any corner, so we pull from a diverse range of resources across many industries and organizations.

Innovation is especially important in eCommerce, so we make room for learning every day. We use structured opportunities—team workshops, webinars, conferences, and Required Reading—and informal opportunities like our Weekly Research & Development afternoon, casual conversations, and a Slack channel for sharing articles and ideas. Learning is useless without practical application, so as we learn, we examine how we can put new insights to work in practical, everyday ways.

One of our most popular learning methods is our Gauge book club. Our inaugural book was Implementing Value Pricing: A Radical Business Model for Professional Firms by Ronald J. Baker. It’s become one of our favorites and it’s made a big impact on both what we do and how we do it. Implementing Value Pricing sparked a huge shift in our approach to partnership. Another practical takeaway we’ve come to love: Post-Project Reviews.

An Elegant Model from the US Army

Our Post-Project Reviews began with an idea from Implementing Value Pricing. In it, the author recommends a tactic used by the US Army. The Army calls them After Action Reports, and Baker describes their process in detail. The model is actually quite light and elegant. It centers around 4 simple questions:

  1. What was supposed to happen?
  2. What actually happened?
  3. What were the positive and negative factors here?
  4. What have we learned and how can we do better next time?

Step 1: The Meeting

We hold our own version of After Action Reports after every client launch or internal project. We call our Post-Project Reviews. Often we start the process by sending these four questions to every Gauge team member involved in the project. This helps us shift from focusing on today’s tasks into “pause and review” mode. Then we get together in one room to debrief and go over the project in detail.

As a founder and the Operations Director, I collaborate with the Project or Account Manager to moderate the conversation. We guide the team through each question, dig into areas that need more discussion or clarification, and make sure everyone contributes. I take careful notes as we flow through the meeting and identify things to address.

Because everyone understands the purpose of these discussions, we can keep them productive and positive. The purpose is to identify what we can improve as a team. That’s it. We don’t assign blame, vent, or get personal. We assume everyone has valuable insight and a unique perspective. This foundation makes it possible to use a “Nothing is off-limits” approach, because we’re aligned in a shared goal.

Step 2: Closing the Loop with Practical Action

After the discussion, we clean up our notes and make them available to the whole team on our shared Google Drive and internal Knowledge Base. Then it’s time for the critical last step: Taking action. Sometimes this means making small process tweaks, or simply keeping a lesson in mind in future situations. Sometimes it prompts a big change.

One recent Post-Project Review made it clear that we needed to optimize some critical systems and communications. This week, we launched a new internal project to make positive changes at every level. Once this project is complete, the insights of one project team will have made our entire team more effective and efficient.

Why Do We Do It?

Many organizations invest in individual growth and development, but that’s not enough. Without a way to aggregate the lessons we all learn, that critical information winds up in a silo, where it can only help one person or department.

Post-Project Reviews are an avenue to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes, so we can grow as a collective unit. Now we don’t have to learn the same lessons over and over again—a crucial mistake any organization must avoid for long-term growth. Essentially, Post-Project Reviews are a pragmatic tactic to democratize our expertise across the entire team. We’re better equipped to create success for every client.

Why This Model?

The US Army model’s simplicity appealed to us. At Gauge, we use five key Guiding Principles to inform everything we do. This model hits two of them square on the head: (1) Add Lightness, and (2) Ask the Hard Questions. It fills the need and fits our natural culture.

Making the Story Great

Another Guiding Principle we all believe in: Make the Story Great. Our goal is to work with you, a client and partner, to create a fantastic story of success. Post-Project Reviews roll several ideas into one; we go the extra mile, strive for deeper communication, and learn from our mistakes so we don’t repeat them. By investing in the big things and the small things, we create a thriving partnership that authors a better story for your business.

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