One of the more valuable exercises that a client of professional services firms can do is to proactively coordinate a post project or post engagement review.
The effort is – assuming you plan on staying in business and adapting to constantly changing times – usually well worth the time and expense. The results are added to your knowledge base, enabling you to be better prepared next time you need to bring in external consultants or other professional services providers.
First, what’s involved? It’s more than one meeting. Done correctly, it’s a process. The post engagement review involves a number of steps:
1. Have your internal team hold the first meeting prior to the conclusion of the engagement. Do not invite the consultants. Don’t even tell them you’re having the meeting. Review all the previously collected work products and artifacts that have been generated during the engagement. Define the subjects that need to be covered and the issues to be addressed in a subsequent joint review session that the consultants will attend. Document the results and use them as input to the agenda of the joint meeting.
2. Coordinate with your consultants and schedule an engagement review with the combined team of client and consultant personnel. Have the consultants draft the initial agenda. Then add any agenda items you want included. Hold the meeting immediately after the final engagement deliverable has been received or at a similar point if there is no final deliverable due. Conduct a facilitated review and lessons learned session with all participants. Publish the results to all involved.
(This meeting should be scheduled before the post project celebratory function – if you were planning on having one.)
3. After the consultants have left, conduct an additional facilitated review and lessons learned session, with the internal team only, in order to produce a final report. Be honest. Use the lessons learned to enable your organization to be a better consumer of consulting services on future projects and to help you interact more effectively with the consultants on those future projects.
The reasons post engagement reviews aren’t usually conducted as thoroughly as they should be are simple; time and money. As usual, it all comes down to priorities.
If time or money is a real problem, a much shorter method is also available. It involves doing nothing and hoping for better results next time. Unfortunately, results can’t be guaranteed.