A Quick Guide to Post Mortems

What is a Post Mortem?

Over the years, we’ve found that reviewing a real estate brokerage technology project after it ends can be just as important as all of our work preparing for a project before it begins. A post mortem is a single event that ensures any future projects go as smoothly as possible, because you are growing and learning from your own experiences.

A “post mortem” is a simple concept – it means to spend dedicated time conducting a detailed review, right after a project ends.

The post mortem meeting allows everyone on the team to have their voice heard, and lets the project manager evaluate how the project went in a much more efficient, objective and comprehensive manner than they ever could on their own.

Here’s how we’ve learned to make the most of our time during post mortem meetings.

Keep Notes Throughout the Project

To make your life easier when it’s time for the post mortem meeting, jot things down as the project progresses. If anything major (good or bad) occurs, that’s definitely something to take note of.

I also love to quote the client during our post mortem meetings – it brings the focus back to the reason we’re all here. Prioritize the client’s feedback whenever you get a message citing something they really enjoy or detest about your process.

Schedule the Meeting Ahead of Time!

This is the simplest step by far, but probably the most vital, since it ensures the meeting will actually happen.

Since this is such an important meeting, our project managers have a reminder pre-launch to schedule it. Launch dates can shift, and it’s okay if you need to push the meeting back. At the very least, get it on the calendar early so that you’re certain it will happen immediately after launch.

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Include Everyone

Each phase of the project may touch a department differently, so it’s imperative that you hear from everyone of them individually. For really large teams, this might mean a single representative from each department, and not always the team lead either. I prefer to hear feedback from members of the team who are most personally involved in the process.

Attendance for all of our post mortem meetings is mandatory. We schedule around known busy days and everyone’s planned time off, and we will reschedule if anyone happens to be out sick the day of.

Set an Agenda (and Stick to It)

Help your team by letting everyone come prepared. You’re using lots of your most valuable employee’s time on this one meeting, so make it count! The agenda doesn’t have to be fancy – an example of ours has been included below:

Example Post Mortem Agenda

About two weeks before our post mortem meeting occurs, everyone involved will receive a worksheet from the project manager so that they can add their feedback at their own pace. These worksheets are full of helpful prompts and questions to jog the team’s memory about important aspects of the project, and we use these as a guide during our meeting so that we don’t miss anything important (during step 4 shown in the image above).

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If you can keep the agenda consistent from one meeting to the next, this will help your team prepare their notes while they’re actually working throughout the project phases. This is especially helpful for our custom design and development projects, because each one is unique and there are some many nuances. This method allows some of the subtler feedback not to be forgotten.

Be Honest – About the Good and the Bad

Every real estate brokerage technology project will have its positives and negatives, and both are equally valuable to discuss. Things that consistently go well should be praised, and woven even deeper into your process. Things that went poorly should be thoughtfully considered, and depending on their impact, changed right away.

Don’t rush! These meetings can be quite long, especially when projects span months like ours do. But the time spent is so worth it, as long as you put in the follow-up work to improve your future projects.

Decide on Actions During (or Immediately After) the Meeting

Involve the team on this step – they’ll tell you what changes are most important, either to them or to your customers (because they’ve heard and seen it first-hand).

Here are some simple questions to help you decide what warrants immediate change:

  • Does it impact many team members, very few, or just one?
  • Is the change in question currently very time-consuming/frustrating for your team, a minor nuisance, or not bothersome at all?
  • Do clients consistently complain about this project phase, task or technology? Or is this the only time the complaint has ever come up/an extreme edge case?
  • How quickly, easily and affordable can making the change be for your company?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how pleased would future customers be with the change in question?

Make All Changes Visible to Your Team

Out of all the tips and topics this article covers, this is the single item I’d recommend project managers focus on. Somehow, in the hustle and bustle of everyday business, I see many companies improving their process silently, and forgetting to broadcast updates to their teams.

Your team has provided their honest feedback because they trust in the project manager’s ability to make things better next time. They’re personally vested in the success of each project; so when you can make a process or systems improvement, announce it! Our project managers confirm what changes will be made during the post mortem meeting, and then update corresponding systems, documentation and task lists immediately after the meeting.

As a second generation REALTOR, Katie comes to TRIBUS after working for a major franchise brokerage and a prominent custom home builder in metro Atlanta, GA. While selling homes, she realized she had a passion for helping agents establish a meaningful web presence and build a CRM that worked. Since then she's become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and graduated from a UX program, all while staying grounded in real estate technology. Her background in the industry and her training in psychology have paved the way for her current user experience focused role, where she leads the product team at TRIBUS.

Katie has moderated and spoken at various events including the RESO Technology Summit and Hacker Connect - a tech intensive session of Inman Connect.
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