The big picture.
Talk about the details of the project as well as the people involved.
Be honest, not accusatory. Talk about your expectations and experience, and let others speak to theirs. Have a dialogue, not an argument.
Take good notes so you can refer back to your learnings when working on future projects.
Use the debrief as a time to reflect and grow, and learn from your experience so you can make new mistakes on next project, not repeat the ones you’ve already made.
Why did we have a debrief and why should you?
We accomplished an ambitious project and were proud of the work that we did. But it wasn’t perfect, because no project ever is. A debrief was the best way to get all of our ideas and feedback in one room and come to consensus on processes that we want to repeat next time and things we want to change.
While working in a consultancy, we have to address the project scope and methods in our work, but also other projects and initiatives that compete for our attention. At our firm, sometimes we are allocated at 100% on one project, but just as frequently we’re working at two at time, 50% each.
In consulting, debriefs are particularly helpful because we work with so many different people over the course of a year. It’s a time for whole group learnings, but done well, it can also reveal personal strengths and weaknesses that we can build from on future projects.
Who should be there?
Anyone who touched the project. Because we’re a consultancy, we include the business development person, the $$ person, the project lead, and anyone who worked on the project directly, namely researchers and designers. If they can give feedback about the process anywhere from scoping to deliverables, they should have the opportunity to participate.
When should you schedule it?
About a week after the project’s end. That way, you have enough distance so you aren’t still wrapped up in the emotion of the project, but close enough so it is all still fresh in your mind.
What should you talk about?
Everything from soup to nuts. Here’s what we covered in our latest project debrief:
What questions should you ask?
In addition to the general topics to cover, here are some questions that every debrief can benefit from, consultancy or not.
Did we push for the things that mattered, for the right reasons, and compromise where necessary?
While we can spend all day talking about survey questions and usability scripts, a debrief is also a perfect opportunity to talk about interpersonal issues. How did the team members collaborate with one another? Was communication fluid or static? Did that effect the project efficiency or ability to meet the timeline? Did the team grow together or apart?
While these latter questions are arguably the more challenging ones, they are what will help us grow as researchers in an increasingly collaborative world of work. These questions will address the roots of our working selves, insights that we’ll take with us no matter the project or company.