Why you need a proper project brief (and de-brief)

Think how much of your working day is taken up with ‘briefing’. Regardless of the type of small business you have, a ‘brief’ is the part of any project that defines where it is going, how it will be organized, and the steps to be accomplished.

This is particularly relevant for creative agencies and marketing agencies – but it’s also relevant for any business who works on a project basis.

And what can sometimes get missed out of this process is the equally important process of ‘de-briefing’ – looking back over the project to review how well it went.

In this post, we’ll be including 5 questions to ask yourself and your team after a project finish – and this is relevant no matter what business you’re in! Read on.

The need for a good brief AND debrief

At the start of any project, you need a clear brief. The brief highlights your objectives, gives you a timeline and provides a practical roadmap for achieving your end goal.

And debriefings are just as important.

Rather than looking forward at the timeline, they look backwards to help you improve your processes and highlight any issues. A debriefing session allows you to make the most of the 20/20 vision that can only be delivered in hindsight.

If you don’t debrief after each project, you lose out on a truly valuable learning experience. The key is to learn from any mistakes, gain confidence from any successes and to have a positive effect on the future efficiency of your business.

So, with this in mind, here are our top 5 questions to ask yourself and the team during a debrief session.

  1. The positives – what worked well?

Sit down with the whole project team and ask everyone what they felt went well. By highlighting the positive elements of the project, you can use the same, or similar, techniques to great effect in future projects.

Looking for the positives also helps you to identify your strengths as a team or company – and to then play on those strengths in future pitches, customer conversations or marketing of the business.

  1. The negatives – what didn’t work so well?

Now comes the difficult part – highlighting the areas of the project that didn’t go to plan. What elements didn’t work or were a real trouble to you? Which parts of the project missed their deadline for completion? Were there any negative comments from the end customer that will need to be dealt with?

Make a list of all the key issues and then dig a little deeper. Pinpoint what went wrong, how it could have been avoided and how you’ll aim to resolve a similar problem in any future projects.

  1. Did you assess the right risks?

At the start of the project, you’ll (hopefully) have carried out a risk analysis and considered any areas that could present you with issues or any calculated risks you’d need to take to deliver the job.

Take a look back at your risk assessment. Did you highlight the right risks for this project? Were any calculated risks you took actually worth taking? Were there any surprises along the way that you’d not accounted for?

By asking these questions, you can balance the relative merits of the positive and negative risks that came out of this project. And that helps your risk analysis process for the next job you have on your books.

  1. What could you have done differently?

‘What if?’ can be a powerful question to ask. What if you’d had more people on the team? What if you’d estimated your budget more effectively?  What if you hadn’t missed that project deadline?

Playing the ‘what if’ game helps you to walk back through different scenarios and spot new ways to overcome any issues. If time and money were not a factor, what would you have done differently? What would the ideal situation be?  (Our Awesome 8 program is a great way to do this.)

Of course, time and money will always be finite, but this process of scenario-building helps you innovate, come up with new solutions and create a model process that can inform the more finite realities of running the business.

Even with the best planning, budgeting and project management, there’s always room for improvement. And looking for future ways to improve the business should always be a key aim of your debriefing sessions.

  1. Did you have the right people on the project team?

Your project is only as good as the people on your project team. So taking a step back to judge how well they performed is a big part of the debrief process.

Did everyone meet your expectations? Were there any weak links in the team? Have there been any similar weaknesses from the same individuals? Talking to your team as a whole, and individually, about performance is a good way to help iron out any issues and give them back some confidence.

But if you consistently have issues with the same person, it may be time to look around for new talent, or team members that don’t just ‘look good on paper’ but are the very best fit for your business and your project delivery.

Lets talk about project debriefing

At Holden Moss, we get a real kick out of working with aspirational businesses. And we know the importance of smooth project management and strategic planning in guaranteeing the success of a small business.

If you’re feeling like your project processes need some attention, we’d love to help you refine and improve your project management.

Get in touch with your local office to have a chat with us about your project planning and underlying business processes.

Written by

Steve Moss, CPA is a partner at Holden Moss CPAs and loves helping businesses and their owners grow to be the very best they can be. Our other offices include Raleigh, Oxford and Warrenton.

We are a little different at Holden Moss CPAs. While we still provide traditional tax and accounting services, years ago we realized many clients wanted help in running their businesses and were hungry for ideas, solutions, strategy, and execution. In response, we expanded our skill set and joined Ran One, a global network of business consulting firms. Our membership with Ran One gives us access to proprietary resources and analytical software to help our clients grow, become more profitable and valuable, and have the lifestyle they desire.

Now, blended into the fabric of our normal tax and accounting needs, we are focused on our clients’ businesses in a very different way. While our approach is not right for everyone, for those whom it is, incredible results may be obtained. Whether you have a new, or established, business, or for those in transition of selling or retiring, or for those who simply need to develop an exit strategy or succession plan, our unique approach to client service may be the edge you need.

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