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50+ Post-Mortem Questions To Help You Learn From Failure

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Conducting a post-mortem meeting after a project or event can be an invaluable tool for improving future outcomes. Post-mortems provide an opportunity to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what can be learned from the experience.

However, to get the most out of these meetings, it’s important to ask the right questions. 

We’ve put together over 50+ post-mortem questions you can ask your team to help guide a productive and insightful project post-mortem or incident post-mortem workshop. 

From questions about the team’s process to questions about individual contributions, these prompts will help you uncover key insights and takeaways that can inform future projects and enhance team performance.

Project post-mortem questions

You might find yourself running a project post-mortem workshop when you’ve either finished, or abandoned a project that didn’t go well. Perhaps it simply ran over time or over budget.

Or even worse, you have an angry client or stakeholders who are disappointed with your work. 

Try using these questions to get to the root cause of what went wrong, and then come up with solutions for how to prevent the issue happening again. 

You can either use these questions as prompts in a custom post-mortem workshop or use them as questions to provoke discussion once you’ve already reflected deeply on your project. 

  1. What were the project goals and in what ways did we fail to meet them?
  2. What was the biggest challenge faced during the project?
  3. Did we have the right resources to complete the project?
  4. Did we have a clear timeline and roadmap?
  5. Was the team adequately informed and prepared to handle the project and issues that came up?
  6. Did communication among team members work effectively?
  7. What was the overall team dynamic and did everyone work well together?
  8. Was the project handled within the budget?
  9. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the project?
  10. Did we adhere to the project plan? If we veered away from it, why?
  11. How did we adapt our approach when things were going wrong?
  12. Were there any significant risks that we failed to
  13. What issues did we run into that we had identified before the project began?
  14. Did the team identify any new opportunities or insights during the project?
  15. Were the roles and responsibilities of team members clear and well-defined?
  16. Was the scope of the project realistic and achievable?
  17. Did we follow best practices to mitigate and deal with setbacks or issues?
  18. Did we encounter any unexpected obstacles or issues, and how were they resolved?
  19. Was the incident well-documented, and can it be replicated?
  20. Did we gather and analyze enough data during the project?
  21. Were there any dependencies that were not adequately addressed?
  22. Did we have adequate training and preparation to fulfill the project and deal with any issues arising from it? Where do we need more training?
  23. Did we have the right processes and procedures in place to handle issues arising from the project?
  24. Did we learn anything new during the project that we can apply to future project?
  25. Did we encounter any significant technical issues, and how were they resolved?
  26. Did we communicate effectively with stakeholders and other teams?
  27. Did we have a clear definition of success for the project or incident?
  28. Did we have a contingency plan in place, and was it effective?
  29. Was the project completed on time and within the deadline? If not, why not?
  30. Were there any areas of improvement, and how can we work to improve them in the future?

Incident post-mortem questions

It could be a server outage, a natural disaster, or a work-place accident. All of these events are isolated incidents in which you may want to dig into what happened, why it happened, and how to lessen the damage next time.

Try asking some of these questions to guide your discussion, either as initial prompts for reflection, or as follow up questions during your discussions. Simply pick and choose the ones that make the most sense for your given incident.

  1. What was the root cause of the problem?
  2. What steps did we take to try to prevent the problem?
  3. Were there any warning signs that we missed?
  4. Were there any factors beyond our control that contributed to the problem?
  5. Was the problem caused by a breakdown in communication?
  6. Did we have the necessary resources to prevent the problem?
  7. Was the problem caused by a lack of training or expertise?
  8. What were the main causes of the problem?
  9. Did we encounter any unexpected issues that we did not prepare for?
  10. Did we have the right processes and procedures in place to deal with the problem effectively?
  11. Did we follow best practices in our incident response?
  12. How effectively did we follow the incident response plan?
  13. Is there anything missing from the incident response plan that we need to add for future incidents?
  14. Were there any dependencies that were not adequately addressed?
  15. Did we have the right tools and technologies in place to effectively diagnose, reproduce, and resolve the problem?
  16. Were there any gaps in our risk assessment or contingency planning?
  17. Did we have a clear understanding of the problem and its impact?
  18. Did we have a clear plan for addressing the problem?
  19. How could we prevent this happening in future?
  20. Did we learn anything new during the process, and how can we apply those lessons to future situations?
  21. Did we have a clear definition of success for addressing the problem?
  22. Were there any obstacles that prevented us from addressing the problem effectively?
  23. Was the incident well-documented, and can it be replicated?

Run your post-mortem the easy way with Parabol

Post-mortems can be stressful meetings to facilitate. The stakes are high, something’s gone wrong, and you might need to quickly run a meeting to assess the damage, figure out how this happened, and make changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Parabol gives you a simple and structured way to facilitate post-mortems that keeps everyone on track, documents your findings, and prompts next steps for everyone involved. It comes with free built-in templates so you can simply pick a series of prompts for your team to reflect on and reduce your prep time to zero.

Don’t struggle through your post-mortem. Try Parabol instead.

Gareth Davies

Gareth Davies

Gareth is the Content Lead at Parabol. He has spent his career helping people and organizations around the world communicate better. He likes learning languages, cycling, and journalling. He originally hails from Wales, but lives and works in Munich, Germany.

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