Is it Time for a Post-Mortem?

Consider it for the living!


OK, the title is a little morbid. Especially in light of the fact that I have been really sick with the flu and now I find myself in a part of the world where Malaria is all too common for those of us without a natural immunity. In fact, I had a Malaria Test Kit waiting for me and sitting on the desk in my room when I returned to the hotel several days ago. That always makes you feel good!

But have no fear. I am alive and well. So please stick with me for a minute or two. Because I want to discuss a tool that I have used many times with clients when I was more actively involved in consulting. This particular approach that I recommend that you try attempts to take a look at what exactly happened during an “event” so that all of the stakeholders can understand it clearly. Not all will see it the same way. But, with enough individual views, a collective view will emerge.

This approach can be particularly helpful when there is already an acknowledgment that there are a number of issues that need to change. This approach requires a high degree of trust among the team because it can naturally focus on the negative of what took place. It is very similar to the critiques we used to receive in the theater at the end of a performance or a rehearsal.

A Post-Mortem in a Leadership Context

The kind of review that I am referring to today is different from those that we used in the theater. The kinds of critiques that I am suggesting are a little more interactive and participatory. The best critiques included all of the components below: 

The Good – The review team needs to list the things that went well during the meeting or event. What worked well? What flowed naturally from beginning to end? What examples did you note of positive feedback from the group during the event?

The Bad – The review team needs to also list what flopped. And be honest. Not everything was stellar. In other words, let’s acknowledge the “elephant in the room”! Everyone knows it is there. We just need to acknowledge it. Remember to clearly articulate the problem with what happened and avoid attacking people, performers or personnel.

The Missing – The review team needs to list what was lacking in the event. In other words, what could you have done that would have made it a better experience for the audience or the organization? In my experience, this is the least used category but can often provide some stunning insights into where your products or services should go in the future.

The Confusing – The review team needs to list what was a part of the event but that didn’t necessarily make sense to the audience or the organization. In other words, what happened that made you say; “What was that all about?” Don’t assume that everyone understood the message of the event the way that you intended it. Just because you said it a certain way, doesn’t mean that they heard it that way. And continuing to insist that you didn’t mean it THAT way doesn’t change the fact that someone heard it or perceived it THAT way.

Now that we have our lists, what do we do with them? 

Here is where confident leaders will stand out. Confident leaders accept that they “Own” the message that was delivered. Confident leaders will review the lists and develop strategies to maximize the good, minimize the bad, fill in the missing and clarify the confusing. Confident leaders will draw from those around them that have specific skills that can address each of the four segments of the post-mortem review. 

How about you? When was the last time you did a post-mortem of an event or even just a significant meeting in your organization? Many times we don’t take hard looks at our activities for fear of what it may reveal. Be fearless today. Take a good hard look and see what is revealed. You will be a much better leader for doing so.

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.