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How to make your post-mortem meetings impactful [agency guide]

We’ve all experienced it—that sigh of relief after finishing a challenging project. Once it’s done, we’re quick to move on to the next...

Profile picture of Craig Phillips


6 min read

We’ve all experienced it—that sigh of relief after finishing a challenging project. Once it’s done, we’re quick to move on to the next thing. But how can your agency grow without evaluating the obstacles your team faced in the past?

Every completed project is an opportunity to gather data, analyze performance and discuss the areas in your workflow you can improve. The best way to do this is by conducting post-mortem meetings.

What is a post-mortem meeting?

A post-mortem meeting is a gathering of team members and your client stakeholders at the end of a project so you can give feedback and improve your agency’s workflow. During these meetings, your team discusses what worked, what didn’t work and what should be changed for future projects. Throughout these post-mortem meetings you’ll build knowledge of your agency’s work process and learn how you can improve for the next project.

The benefits of post-mortem meetings

As an agency, you may be hesitant to bring your clients and team members together to talk about what didn’t work in a project, but it’s one of the best ways your business can learn and grow.

Here are 7 benefits you’ll gain from conducting post-mortem meetings with your team:

  1. Celebrate achievements

  2. Learn from mistakes

  3. Empower employees to speak up

  4. Promote a positive workplace

  5. Improve teamwork

  6. Share new ideas

  7. Build strong client relationships

Celebrate achievements

It’s not just a meeting to talk about what can be improved, such as missed deadlines. In all likelihood, you’ve done many things well. Celebrate the wins that happened during the project—whether it was tackling a difficult design or increasing your client’s conversions.

Learn from mistakes

Even if it seemed like everything in your project went according to plan, there’s always room for improvement. Ask each person from your team for specific examples on what can be changed or improved. When you find out what went wrong, you’ll find better ways to work.

Empower employees to speak up

A group of people can go through the same situation and come out of it with different feelings and opinions. Every opinion matters. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas. Doing this will empower them to speak openly and make them feel as an equal part of the project.

Promote a positive workplace

Talking through problems and celebrating wins brings teams closer and motivates everyone for the next project. Your employees will be thinking of how they can contribute, and your clients will be confident in your leadership.

Improve teamwork

By listening to many perspectives, your team will become more open to each other’s ideas and figuring out ways to meet client demands, together. This also helps your clients see your collaborative approach.

Share new ideas

During a project you or your team members may come up with new ways to do your work. This meeting is a great platform for you to share those ideas. Plus, you can create a plan of action moving forward.

Build strong client relationships

Including your client in a post-mortem meeting is a good final step for managing the feedback process. This allows your client to get a full understanding of the work your agency does. You’ll hear what worked and what they want to change for the future. Your client will also feel like they’re a part of the team, which will strengthen your relationship and boost overall client satisfaction.

Your guide to running a successful post-mortem meeting

Having an organized post-mortem meeting is an integral part of every project. When they’re done correctly, they can help your agency grow significantly from project to project. Plus, they can be used to improve your overall client satisfaction.

Here are some guidelines you can follow when organizing and operating a successful post-mortem meeting:

Prepare for your post-mortem meeting

Send out a pre-meeting survey to your team and client

Everyone benefits when they have some time to prepare. Send out a survey in advance to get quick and honest feedback that can be used during the post-mortem meeting. When creating your survey questions, keep in mind the aspects of your client project: overall communication, project kick-off and management, content sharing and problem solving. Be sure to include both quantitative questions (yes/no answers and rankings) and qualitative questions for open-ended, specific comments.

Create an agenda for your post-mortem meeting

Keep the meeting up to one hour and help participants stay on task by using an organized agenda.

Use these guidelines when creating an agenda for your post-mortem meeting:

  1. Restate that the meeting is all about feedback—good and bad Remind your team this meeting is to share their opinions and thoughts about the project and work process.

  2. Recap the project Restate the initial expectations, how you and your client measure success and which project goals you achieved. The more transparent you are with the results, the easier you make it for your client. For example, your client may acknowledge that their unplanned changes slowed down deliverables.

  3. Highlight the wins Celebrate the tasks that were accomplished during the project. This will encourage your employees and build confidence.

  4. Open the discussion to all feedback Start with answers provided in the survey you sent to your team and clients. Encourage your team and clients to speak up. If it’s slow-going, share your own comments and ask if anyone agrees or disagrees. Dig deeply enough to get to the “why” of positive and negative outcomes.

  5. End on a positive If you want a team that’s motivated to do even better next time, and a client that believes in you—show your appreciation. Make it personal and positive.

Use baselines as a starting point

A baseline is the starting point for your project’s plan. It’s a point of reference used to measure the progress of your project. In project management, there’s typically three baselines: cost, schedule and scope. Setting these baselines before a project starts will help you compare your results once it’s completed. These results are a good reference to share during your post-mortem meeting.

Create a presentation

Your team will better understand project results when they’re able to see them visually. Prepare a short presentation with your data mapped out in simple charts. You can show analytics such as the time it took to complete each task, or the number of leads your client’s site gained from an asset. This will help everyone conceptualize the outcome of the project.

Moderate your post-mortem meeting

Any meeting can devolve into lengthy commentary and unhelpful complaints. Keep your meeting on task by sticking to the main topics you listed in your agenda. Share your agenda with meeting participants so they know what needs to be achieved. Your goal should be to make everyone feel included, valued and comfortable—and clear on what to expect.

Here are 6 tips you can use to moderate your post-mortem meetings:

  1. Assign a moderator It's not easy being neutral when it's your team or project, or deciding when it’s time to move on to a new topic. A good moderator can handle these logistics firmly and with diplomacy.

  2. Make it fun A little humor goes a long way toward loosening up your team. Consider a quick icebreaker, like asking everyone to use one word to describe their mood. Some may sound ridiculous and that’s part of the fun.

  3. Be constructive Admit what was wrong, but make the focus on how to improve. Did you learn anything during the project that can be applied more broadly? If so, share it with the team.

  4. Don't let it get personal Even the most difficult clients are still clients. Treat them professionally, without blame or animosity. Remember, they may help you find your next client and sign your next contract.

  5. Keep it focused Let everyone have their say. But if what they’re saying is not useful or relevant, your moderator should keep it moving.

  6. Take detailed notes Meeting notes are a formal record of your meeting and a resource for keeping all stakeholders informed, especially those who are unable to attend the post-mortem in person. They also act as a reference point for your team when you begin implementing next steps in your internal and client-facing processes. These notes keep everyone accountable for what was said and for follow-up actions—so nothing falls through the cracks.

Follow-up with your team and client after your post-mortem meeting with actionable insights

Think of the follow-up to a post-mortem meeting as a way of reinforcing what you’ve already discussed and agreed upon. For example, if your client wasn’t satisfied with some component of the project, a detailed follow-up including their feedback can affirm that you heard them. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving in to any unreasonable demands. But it sets a tone of goodwill and appreciation for the client’s business.

The follow-up should be written in a document and sent in an email shortly after the meeting. This can be used as a resource to reference following the meeting and as a brief summary for those who were unable to attend.

Here’s what to include in your post-mortem follow-up:

  • Project background Start the email off with an explanation of the project including the client needs and agency goals.

  • Brief summary Summarize the main topics and feedback from the meeting in bullet points.

  • State action items Share the new methods your team will be using and the steps to take in order to implement them in your future projects.

  • Say thank you Show your appreciation by telling your team and your client’s team thank you for being a part of the project and sharing their feedback.


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