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Project Management: Paying Attention to What Went Well
By Chad Baker

In a recent lessons learned session, a team member noted that responses to “What went well?” were often overlooked in favor of “What did not go so well?” responses. He specifically felt that the former lessons were only captured as quick “pats-on-the-back,” while the latter were reasons to take a hard look at the team and each individual for what went wrong and what must be improved.

While I didn’t agree completely, I believe it’s natural for a team to dive deeper into problem areas than to review areas where the team is strong. Thankfully, we had an excellent example during the session that demonstrated the value of taking extra time to discuss a positive lesson and how future projects might benefit.

A Closer Look Uncovers Responsive Design and Mobility Success

The lesson was initially presented as, “Responsive design worked out well on this project.” Obviously, this is a fairly generic statement needing further definition to apply as a lesson learned. A team member elaborated on this thought by saying, “Our usage of responsive design allowed ten percent of users to successfully register for the event via mobile device.”

The additional data improved the value of the idea, but still fell short of identifying a lesson learned. We eventually landed on the following:

“Our implementation of responsive design, which was originally out-of-scope, started as a side project but was eventually added into the final product. Because of this effort, ten percent of event registrations were successfully completed via mobile device. Overall, implementing responsive design only added 20 hours of development and testing (representing less than 2% of the total project time) and virtually eliminated any issues for our mobile users.”

Based on this finding, we documented our lesson learned as such:

For web applications, even a small amount of effort in supporting multiple platforms through responsive design delivers meaningful results (improved user experience, fewer errors). Future projects should include time for developing the site using responsive design principles, even if it is just a small percentage of the overall effort.

By spending a few minutes on something that went well during the project, we were able to identify the value of responsive design for future projects and – more importantly – to all of the stakeholders in the room.

Chad Baker believes in building high-performance teams through open communication, standardized processes, and defining clear goals for the team and each individual. Over the course of his career, Baker has participated in a number of such teams as an application developer, team lead, and most recently, project manager. “Achieving high-performance is a process in itself,” says Baker. “Each team member must be given the opportunity to contribute and, over time, display the ability to execute. There’s room for varying skill levels, but the expectation is that everyone commits to their best.” Since joining Ciber in 2006, Baker’s experience includes projects for education, entertainment, sales and travel, and government utilities organizations.

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