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Hold post mortems on what went right Add to ...

Most small businesses will not hesitate to take time with their team to do a post mortem on what went wrong, when something inevitably does, with a project or initiative.

As they should. There is no worse feeling or outcome than repeating mistakes.

But do you know how to repeat your successes?

One way to find out is to do a post mortem on what went right.

I built a “post mortem success program,” where my team covered a set list of questions and participated in a set number of discussions to make sure we understood why a project or initiative was a success.

It was awkward at first, because everyone assumed they already knew why we had achieved success: We’d had a good idea.

Good ideas, however, are a dime a dozen. Successful execution of a good idea is extremely rare. Nothing gets me more excited than someone who comes to the table with an idea and a detailed action plan.

The truth is, a successful venture often involves unknown variables that can both contribute to and take away from a project.

When it is all falling apart, it is Murphy’s Law; when it is all coming together, it was great planning.

What your post mortem needs to do is to establish how much of your success was part of your original program and is repeatable, versus how much tailwind you received that was an unexpected benefit.

If a one-off or unexpected event, person, customer situation, mistake made by a competitor, extra access to funding or efforts by co-workers contributed to your success, you must establish how to repeat that, or how to manage without it if it can’t be incorporated into the next implementation.

Without this, you run into missing the expected outcome from a repeat performance and complaining, dumbfounded that “it worked last time.”

This is especially important if your first success is inspiring you to increase the scope and investment of your next round of programs.

If you’ve done great, make sure you know why.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.

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