Pro Tip: Creating a postmortem checklist for when a project is finished can help reduce mistakes and improve project management the next time around.

Most projects involve multiple steps, although I'd argue one of the most important ones might be the last. And there's a good chance you don't have this step on your list, I'm talking about the postmortem. It's the step that involves reaching back out to the customer (in most cases the bakery operations team) to find out if you met the economic justification of the original project scope.

Some project managers might cringe at the idea, but if you planned and executed a successful project, you'd probably look forward to the chance to ask the customer how you did.

Let's face it: the real value is finding out what you could have done better.

Today, I find that many projects fall short of the original scope, and in many cases, the continued waste and downtime derived from a project that fell short of the scope means the difference between success and failure for the plant and its team.

The first time you do a postmortem, you'll be shocked at some of the comments. Here are a few examples:

  • We weren’t properly trained.
  • Where are our spare parts?
  • Preventive maintenance tasks weren't rewritten to reflect the new equipment.
  • The machine still doesn't perform to the level we expected.

I had a boss once tell me that every time I said, “I learned a valuable lesson,” it should mean that I graduated to the next grade or level of proficiency. If not, I'm bound to repeat my mistakes. 

My final recommendation would be to start your project with a postmortem checklist that was vetted with the customer prior to initiating the project.

If you truly want to make customers feel comfortable and start with a high level of trust, let them know that you expect to get a five-star rating and promise you'll be back to find out how close you came when the project is over.

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn.