Learning from a Project: Post Mortem

Much can be learned from doing a Lessons learned meeting after each project. In my current position it is a practice we do as a routine at the end of the projects. One particular project, where I was new to Instructional design and project management was a lessons learned I will not forget. I was in a new position as an instructional designer, had a new boss to the healthcare system, who left about 1 month into the project, I had a new manager assigned to me who did not show any interest in the project for about three months. I was given a very large project to design and develop learning for a group of learners who were spread across the country. In my mind I had this project running very smoothly. I wrote out a design document and had regular meetings with my design team.

First lesson learned – Write a clear Statement of work. The mistake I made was to focus too much on the design document. While this is an important working document it does not clearly state everything in order to have a successful project. For instance the purpose and objectives were represented strongly in the design document other parts of the SOW were missing. Neither the assumptions nor timelines where addressed in the design document. While I had the “idea” of how this project should flow, I did not have the roadmap to get there. This was a huge mistake on my part. As a result of this undefined SOW, other projects moved their way to take priority of this project.

A positive for this project is I had all the appropriate representatives at the table from the beginning, this allowed for quick identification of the potential problems located within the project. We were able to take a pause and write the project plan and project charter. This is allowing for the project to keep moving and I will be able to deliver a stellar product to the business owner. My lessons learned is to be aware of what the business owner wants and to be open to the potential changes I might have to change mid stream.

7 thoughts on “Learning from a Project: Post Mortem

  1. Janeh,
    Wow, I can see how a statement of work (SOW) clearly would have benefited your work. I have not had an real personal experiences in the field and I love seeing my classmates that have, post about them. My fear if I am ever given the opportunity, would be failure to deliver. Too, I never knew and would not have thought just how important Project Management is to Instructional Design. I am enjoying this class so far and it has opened up my eyes about the roles and responsibilities of an ID.



    1. Katrina,

      Experience is what helps us learn. I was a facilitator who was given opportunities to do the Instructional designer. I do have growth opportunities to take advantage of. I learn from my mistakes. This has been a great graduate program for learning and reaffirming the knowledge I do have. Keep up the work, you are doing great.


  2. Great post, Jane. You described the scenario well and I can definitely see the value of the reflection you made here: including a statement of work in the initiation of a project is something that I think a lot of people learn to do either through experience or through being told, like you, I wouldn’t have thought to do it at first. I probably would have thought something like an SoW would be an unnecessary piece of paperwork, but there are many reasons why the experts say this should be your first step (Laureate Education, n.d.) as you found out in your project. I never would have thought that a project would get off track the way yours did just from now having an SoW, but I can definitely see how such a clearly defined plan and provide a roadmap to keep the project on class.

    Another problem that can often arise from not having have clear statement of work is need to do rework, because stakeholders might not have been aware of your plans, or might come back later for various reasons requesting changes. With a clear statement of work that was approved by the driving stakeholders behind the project you can always go back and explain to them when changes are requested why those changes are outside the scope of the project as agreed upon, which gives the project manager the ability to prevent scope creep and rework (Laureate Education, n.d.).


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Project kickoff [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Barriers to project success [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu


  3. Julie,

    A “Lessons Learned” meeting is a great idea. This is a great way to document successes and opportunities for future projects. You mentioned this was one of your first projects in your new role. It was good that you had the appropriate support to help guide you through the process. Were you able to take what you learned from this project and apply it to other projects?


  4. Awesome summary.) I’ve too have learned the hard way that failure to clearly convey what needs to get done to your team and your stakeholders means that at a minimum, you’ll be doing the bulk of the work. At worst, it means you’ll be completely and totally off-base and you won’t find out until your deep in it.


  5. Jane,
    Your post is a great example of the conflicts faced by the Instructional Designer (ID) who is also acting as a Project Manager (PM). By concentrating on the design document, which is of great importance to develop an effective training, you gave less effort to the SOW. Having a clear vision of the project scope as outlined by the SOW is imperative to ensure that the expected outcomes are being met and that the project is deemed successful. However, it is hard for the ID to balance the focus on developing the training with the role of PM.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s