Ah! Project Health Check; Lesson Learned? Take the pragmatic approach!

Performing Project Implementation Reviews (PIR) to capture lessons learned at the end of the project is ineffective and may not provide accurate insight into project delivery

As the project races towards the finish line project team members start to look for new assignments, some might already had moved to their next challenge weeks before the lights were turned off on the project. Interest in the project declines rapidly especially if project implementation had been completed and in BAU handover state. Holding a PIR session at this stage would be perceived more likely as a PMO governance liability than a lesson learn exercise, defeating the purpose of the session. Many might not even turn up for the session!

The following four step process may assist you with your next project review;

  1. Define and Publish PIR process

The first and foremost important step is to formally define the Lessons Learned / Project Health Check process and publish it to the wider organisation. Let stakeholders know the importance of lesson learned exercise and how it would benefit them. Highlight the fact that health check is a reflective exercise to look for ways to improve project delivery by avoiding known pitfalls and build on good practices both for current project and future endeavours. It is not a finger pointing exercise.

Introduce Project Health Check as a key PMO service!

Communicate through ‘Newsletters’, ‘PMO website’, brown bag sessions, displaying PMO Services poster at key locations within the workplace.

  1. Embed Health Checks in the Project schedule

The cost of prevention is much lower than that the cost of rectification

Regular project health checks during the project life cycle are much more effective and provide better insight into project performance than one single session at the end of the project. Embedding project health checks within project schedule encourages stakeholder commitment and assist in recognising early warning signs of project going off track.

Ideally health check should be perform at every stage gate within the project management framework. Mandating health checks as a gating approval provides PMO with much better insight into project management practices follow by the project. PMO could identify key performance challenges, recommend appropriate actions to reduce the negative impact, encourage and promote good practices adopted by the team.

  1. Ask Project Team; formally and informally

Projects are deliver within the realms of organisation culture and politics. Project managers and project team are influenced (sometimes intimated) by the politics and organisational hierarchy.

Use multiple approach to get stakeholder feedback. Be aware of introverts in the team and consider options to get their feedback.  Depending on the organisational environment, you may want to consider using anonymous online survey, F2F workshop with project team (extremely useful to get a feel of project environment) or 1-2-1 sessions.

For an effective project review accuracy of information is important and sometime an informal coffee catch-up can work wonders! This can be extremely beneficial especially in identifying early signs of project trouble.

Make it a point to get sponsor’s feedback during the project health check and document it as lessons learned. Sponsors while keeping a bird’s eye view of the project can provide valuable insight into project delivery practice and team environment.

  1. Adopt Continuous Improvement

PIR and Health Check are an excellent way to identify areas of improvement within PMO methodology and framework. PMO should be open and willing to tweak the framework to suit the organisational requirement. Use findings from the sessions to enhance overall project management maturity across the team. Develop training plan, strengthen weak processes and improve project compliance through coaching and mentoring.


Last but not least, some tips (that have worked for me) ….

  1. Email draft recommendations paper within two weeks of the health check session, followed by a workshop to review the recommendations with the project team. You will be surprise how much people appreciate this and additional feedback that you can will get. You can publish final version after the workshop; incorporate additional feedback received.
  2. Keep the tone and language of the recommendations simple and factual, remember no assumptions. Use images and graphs if possible. Too much text is boring!
  3. Recommendations should not exceed more than three pages at the most. Two is better! Highlight both ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’.
  4. Do not refer to individuals within the report. Use team name e.g. IT, Solution Design, Business, Operations, etc.
  5. And finally, PMO’s responsibility is not limited to capturing lesson learned and archiving the results; add learnings and action taken to rectify the problem into PMO training curriculum as examples.

Faheem Jafar, PMP, PMI-RMP is the founder and principal consultant at PROPRAC Consultants. He works with organisations by helping them develop and enhance Project Management capability and specialises in PMO Consulting, Project Management Training and Risk Management. Faheem has more than two decades of experience in leadership, project management and PMO at an international level. His industry experience includes Construction, Financial, FMCG, Gaming & Entertainment, Telecommunication, Natural Resources & Mining and Public sector.

You may contact Faheem Jafar on fjafar@propracconsultants.com


Share This
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments