Eli Weinstock-Herman

Product Selection, Reviewing the Process

Original post posted on Saturday, March 5, 2011 at LessThanDot.com

Product Selection:

It was a long trip from "I want product ABC" to what we really ended up choosing and implementing. No process is perfect, no meeting goes as planned. After the product selection process is complete it's time to review what went well, what fared poorly, and what we can try to improve the process. There are fifteen other tasks waiting, but taking some time to identify these factors is the first step to evolving our process towards an ultimate goal of less wasted motion in both the short and long terms. Some day we should be able to lift our heads and realize that we are not only selecting the best possible products for our needs, but doing so with less energy and resources then it originally took to simply pick one at random (with the random conversations, arguments, integration losses, and other baggage that incorporate that 'process').

Step 4: Review

There are a lot of templates out there for reviewing projects and tasks and, like so many areas in our field, there are books upon books upon theories upon methods. Don't waste a lot of time trying to find the perfect method, generally any method will get us 80% of the way there. One starting place I like is the Agile Retrospective.

Hold the Retrospective

The best retrospectives I have been included in have had a few common factors (this is not to say you can't have an excellent one without these factors, I can only speak from my own experience). Prior to the retrospective we should send out a survey for people to fill out and bring to the meeting with them. I have a post-mortem document I borrow questions from and expanded over time, here are some examples (my apologies, I haven't tracked all the sources of these questions):

  • Are you proud of the outcome of the project?
  • What was the single most frustrating part of the project?
  • What part of the project most contributed to the success?
  • Given the opportunity, would you take part in this project again?
  • How could we have improved [name of phase, sub-process, fill in the blank]
  • Did we include all of the necessary people in the process?
  • What could we have removed from the process or what was the least useful part of the process?
  • What information was presented in the poorest or hardest to understand fashion?

The purpose is to help people identify significant factors in the process that they felt helped, hurt, or simply caused waste. Areas that are considered wasteful are potential candidates to try living without, negative areas are areas that we should analyze further, and positive areas are things we can thank the team for helping us succeed with.

Reflect and Assess

Having the group feedback is important, but the only person that has been present for the entire process has been you. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes to reflect over the process, using materials like meeting requests and early emails to refresh your memory. Try to quickly live back through the process and see what parts could have been improved or were unnecessary now that you have the benefit of hindsight. Ask yourself if you personally felt like the selection was successful, what you would like to have tried differently, and what pieces you think could be improved for the next one.

Document, Document, Document

Again with the documentation. I have a poor memory and a dislike for ineffectiveness, so I try to make sure that if I have spent a lot of energy on a project that I have captured the end result as best as I could. Document the results of the retrospective and the self-review and put that document together with the documents you produced for the product selection. This may also be excellent material to use in reviews with your boss as it will provide a lot of input into how you and others felt the process went and also invites them to help provide you with areas or training that can help the next time around be even more effective. Writing all of the information can help reinforce your memory and many times serves as a greater benefit then the end product.

Document only as much as you need and no more. Documenting every last detail is almost as useless as documenting nothing at all. Find a balance.

And Done!

We did it. From a general budget line item or CEO query we have evaluated what the company needed, brought all the business owners on board to create requirements and selection criteria, evaluated several products against each other, and executed a lessons learned exercise against our process. Along the way we sidestepped a lot of meetings, reduced a slew of risks, reduced implementation and requirements gaps, and probably saved our company a lot of money they will never know about.

The absolute last step is to write this down for your year end review and to send out a thank you email to everyone that was involved in the process. From the CEO to the business owners, to the implementation team, everyone deserves to enjoy the successes. And a little not-so-secret tip? Success is the best step 0 for your next project. Having a string of success behind you makes it that much easier to root cause people's requirements, get them involved in selection, and successfully complete that next project.

Product Selection:

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