As is true with any profession, management consultants get better at their jobs with time and experience. That’s particularly true for consultants who make a point of conducting project assessments, gathering their clients’ feedback at the end of a project, and then using that feedback to ensure improved performance on future engagements.

Post-project reviews (PPRs) with both your clients and your internal team are an ideal opportunity to build on your own success and avoid making the same mistakes twice. But be prepared: An honest project evaluation involves taking a hard look at the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the performance of your project.

Although an honest project review may sometimes sting your ego, remember that you can use every ounce of feedback you get to ensure that you do a better job on your next engagement.

In Your Client’s Own Words

Let your client know well ahead of time that you’ll conclude the project with an opportunity to assess its impact. It’s a good idea to include the PPR as the final step in the project timeline you initially present to your client.

When the time comes, conduct the meeting in person, and be sure to include key stakeholders within the client organization, as well as the project manager, account manager and any others who may wish to provide input.

First on the agenda for the meeting: Ask questions designed to help you understand your client’s overall level of satisfaction with the project. Did it meet the client’s goals? What did the client think of the process followed to attain the end result?

Be specific. How did your client feel about the project management? Did they like the weekly status e-mails you provided? Where they too detailed, or not detailed enough? What about meetings that took place over the course of the project: Were they an effective use of the client’s time? Was the online approval process convenient, or would the client prefer a different approach next time? Is there anything else the client would change if he or she had a chance to start over?

This meeting is also the moment of truth when you’ll find out what your client thinks about the level of service your team provided. Did your team members respond to your client’s requests in a timely manner? Did they answer any questions fully? Were problems resolved to your client’s satisfaction? Was the quality of work what the client expected? Where did your team fall short?

Be sure to ask for your client’s specific recommendations for how you can improve your approach or service. Most importantly, be ready to keep those suggestions top-of-mind during your next engagement.

After the meeting, send the client a thank you e-mail, note or gift – depending on the depth of your relationship and the size of the project – to express your appreciation.

Back at the Office

Once you’ve wrapped up your post-project review with the client, your work still isn’t done. Now it’s time to sit down with your team and ask yourselves some tough questions.

Hold an internal project assessment with every team member who touched the project – or if you’re a solo consultant, set aside the time to do it on your own. This is the time for an honest evaluation of everything from the financial side of the job to the customer service you provided, with a goal of improving performance.

First, take a look at your financial performance on the job. Where there project overruns in any areas? What caused them? Were your estimates accurate or way off? What about the quality of delivery? Were there parts of the project that required re-work on the part of your team? If so, how much did that cost your business, and how could it have been avoided?

Think about how the project changed over time. Did you accurately capture additional project requests that emerged over the course of the project, track them as scope changes, and account for them in your estimates and billing? If not, how much money did you lose out on, or was it worth it to take the hit to ensure your client’s satisfaction? To help you estimate the next project more accurately, try to determine what elements were missing or unknown during your initial estimation process.

Next, take a long look at the overall project management. Were you able to stick to the timelines you developed? If not, why? Were you able to appropriately book resources when needed? Was the client’s goal achieved in the timeframe you committed to? If not, what may have affected the timeliness of delivery, and how can you account for such deviations from the plan with your next project?

Keep in mind that delays may have been caused by something as simple as the client being on vacation, or a technical problem such as the client needing to set up a new server. But for the sake of your future projects, also consider that they may have been caused by something within your own control.

Dedicate some time to thinking about how to make things easier on yourself next time. For example, were there any repeatable processes or documents from this project that you could develop into standardized templates and re-use? If you’ve already got a set of template documents or processes, pull them out now and see if you can incorporate any new lessons or information that will be valuable on the next job.

Finally, ask your team members to identify three things that went well with the project, as well as three things that could be improved upon – and take these suggestions to heart.

Wrap up your post-project evaluation by reviewing the client’s feedback on what you did right or wrong. Have an honest discussion about how to prevent any negative feedback next time. And don’t forget to congratulate your team – and yourself – for a job well-done.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Cochran is the President of Business Insurance Now, a company providing small business insurance quotes to management companies. He knows how to reduce the risks for project managers based on a decade of experience in the liability insurance industry