How to Run a Post-Mortem Meeting – A guide in 2024

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Last updated on: June 2, 2024

How to Run a Successful Post-Mortem Meeting

Post-mortem meetings? It’s a lot less morbid than it sounds! In the project management world, post-mortem meetings are important for analyzing the successes and failures of a project, paving the way for continuous improvement, and future success.

Let’s get into the fundamentals with an exploration of what exactly a post-mortem meeting entails, how to prepare, and the 5 steps you need to learn how to lead one of these hallmark meetings.

What is a post-mortem meeting?

A post-mortem meeting, also known as a retrospective or debrief, is a structured discussion held at the conclusion of a project to evaluate its outcomes and identify lessons learned.

It provides a forum for project teams to reflect on what went well, what could have been improved, and how to apply these insights to future projects.

In essence, a post-mortem meeting serves as a final step in the project lifecycle, allowing teams to:

  • Reflect: Review the project’s objectives, processes, and outcomes in a systematic manner.
  • Learn: Identify successes, failures, and areas for improvement to inform future decision-making.
  • Iterate: Incorporate changes and optimizations based on the insights gained from the post-mortem analysis.

Fostering open communication and a culture of continuous learning through post-mortem meetings empowers teams to refine their practices, mitigate risks, and improve overall project performance.

How to prepare for a post-mortem meeting?

Preparation is key to having a productive and insightful post-mortem meeting. Here’s a loose step-by-step guide on how to prepare effectively. Your mileage may vary, so choose these steps as they suit your needs.

  • Gather feedback: Encourage team members to provide feedback on what worked well and what could be improved next time. This can be done through pre-meeting discussions, surveys, or questionnaires.
  • Get hard statistics: If applicable, get all of the numerical data results from the project together and be prepared to present all of it clearly and concisely.
  • Establish baselines: Define the project’s baseline metrics for things such as cost, time spent, and overall completion. If you set up SMART goals at the beginning, these can be used as your benchmarks
  • Choose a moderator: Select a moderator with leadership skills and a thorough understanding of the project. The moderator will facilitate the meeting, keep discussions on track, and make sure all participants have the opportunity to contribute.
  • Choose main points: As the project manager, identify key topics for discussion based on your own observations and feedback from team members. These talking points will form the basis of the meeting agenda.
  • Create a presentation: Put together a presentation summarizing the project’s successes, challenges, and key insights. This document will guide discussions during the post-mortem meeting and make sure all relevant points are addressed.
  • Develop an agenda: Make a detailed agenda outlining the meeting’s objectives, discussion topics, and ground rules. Share the agenda with participants in advance to get everyone prepared and align them with the meeting’s goals.

By taking these preparatory steps, you’ll set the stage for a focused and constructive post-mortem meeting that drives meaningful insights and actionable outcomes.

Do you need a project post-mortem meeting?

Project post-mortem meetings are valuable for organizations of all sizes and across many industries. Consider these benefits of post-mortem meetings before you start.

Continuous improvement

Learning from successes and failures is as important in the workplace as it is in real life. Post-mortem meetings provide an opportunity to reflect on project outcomes and identify what worked and what could be changed. 

Knowledge sharing

Post-mortem meetings facilitate knowledge sharing among team members. Giving a space to their experiences and thoughts, team members can gain a deeper understanding of project dynamics and best practices, as well as what their teammates do to contribute.


Holding post-mortem meetings encourages accountability within the team. By openly discussing challenges and responsibilities, team members can take ownership of their actions and collaborate more effectively.

Stakeholder engagement

Post-mortem meetings can involve key stakeholders, such as clients or project sponsors, which provides more transparency and alignment. Involving stakeholders in the review process helps organizations strengthen relationships and manage expectations more effectively.

Overall, project post-mortem meetings drive organizational learning, strong collaboration, and continuous improvement across projects and teams.

5 steps on leading a post-mortem meeting successfully

Leading a post-mortem meeting requires careful planning and effective facilitation to ensure that the meeting concludes with everyone coming away with valuable information and actionable suggestions for the future (if applicable).

1. Set the stage

Begin by clearly articulating the purpose and objectives of the post-mortem meeting to all participants. Emphasize the importance of open communication, constructive feedback, and a collaborative mindset.

2. Establish ground rules

Not every post-mortem meeting is going to be a celebration; and there may be times where the conversation gets difficult or heated. Establish ground rules for the meeting to keep the discussion productive and respectful. Encourage participants to share their perspectives openly, while maintaining a focus on problem-solving and improvement.

Some ground rules may include:

  • Respect each other’s opinions and viewpoints.
  • Avoid assigning blame and focus on identifying solutions.
  • Ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak without interruptions.
  • Stay focused on the agenda and avoid tangential discussions.

3. Review the project

Provide a complete overview of the project, including its objectives, timeline, deliverables, and key milestones. Highlight both successes and challenges encountered during the project to set the context for the discussion.

This will look different for every industry, so feel free to do some trial and error, or look up more industry-specific tips for what kind of presentation is best for you.

4. Open discussion

Encourage active participation from all team members by asking open-ended questions and probing for insights.

Use techniques such as brainstorming, root cause analysis, and SWOT analysis to explore different aspects of the project in depth.

Keep the discussion focused on identifying lessons learned and actionable recommendations for future improvement.

5. Document action items

As the meeting progresses, document key insights, action items, and decisions made. Assign responsibilities for follow-up actions and establish clear timelines for implementation.

Be sure that all participants have access to the meeting minutes and action items for reference.

Following these steps and adding your own what suit your needs can help you lead a post-mortem meeting that promotes reflection, learning, and continuous improvement within your team or organization.


Throughout this guide, we’ve explored the importance of post-mortem meetings, from their role in facilitating knowledge sharing to their impact on organizational culture.

As you incorporate post-mortem meetings into your project management practices, remember to emphasize open communication, constructive feedback, and a commitment to learning and growth. Good luck!

Diana Bocco

Written by

Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco combines her expertise to offer in-depth perspectives on uptime monitoring and website performance. Her articles are grounded in practical experience and a deep understanding of how robust monitoring can drive business success online. Diana's commitment to explaining complex technical concepts in accessible language has made her a favorite among readers seeking reliable uptime solutions.