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December 11, 2008

Be your own worst critic

It is nice to celebrate after an accomplishment or closing out a project. This is a must and hopefully you do this or work in an environment where this is done. Many projects end up with some long nights, weekend, or travel away from home so you have earned the right to take some time off and enjoy and reflect on the success.

But don’t forget after passing an important milestone or closing out the project to do a formal review of lessons learned. This is a review of what went right in the project and what did not go well. This is where I encourage you to be your own worst critic here and not just have a “pat on the back” session with your co-workers.

Consulting is the business of knowledge work and often there are many different possible solutions, time involved in developing the solution, and a wide range of the breadth and depth the solution can penetrate the company. It is a competitive business judged by people directly part of the solution and others that see it from afar. It will be criticized and other consultants or consulting groups will state they could have done this better. We live in a world where people like to criticize those that create so don’t be afraid to take a hard look at the work you just accomplished.

So what should you do now?

Formalize the process

I’m starting with a basic requirement here but I often see these little things not done. There may not be one template that fits all consultants but you can do a search on google to find lesson learned templates to start with if you don’t have one. (Here is a good one to start with - ). Remember the key reason to formalize the process is to systematically collect the information (Knowledge Management) and do analysis so you have input into improving IP, Learning, or Strategic Planning sessions.

Add a Section for Value

You may not find this on any of the lessons learned templates but this should be the number one section. Make sure to address the following questions in this section:
- was the project design based on value case?
- can business owners communicate value to upper management?
- were metrics and reports created to capture and measure the value of the solution?
- did you leave a roadmap of future opportunities (i.e. repeat business)?

Remember in the end the goal is to create change that improves the value or finances of the customer.

Did you Wow the customer?

This is the section where you look at the extra things you did for the customer and should include the following:
- will the customer be a great reference?
- did you give them a taste of other changes you can make with a special report or small demonstration?
- have you introduced your main customers to one another so you can build a tribe you lead?
- did you deliver extra functionality without them asking?
- have you arranged a follow-up workshop down the road at no cost for the key contacts?

These extra things go a long way in making the customer go “Wow!” and getting you repeat business. This also means you delivered more value than originally promised. If you are not doing this then let this be your first lesson learned.