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Most of us pay lip service to the need for software project post mortems, but the literature offers little guidance on how to conduct them. The authors propose a tentative, standard process for conducting post mortem reviews and describe activities, roles, and artifacts of the process. The success of the post mortem-or of any learning process-demands a context that makes organizational learning possible. Management must make an honest and sincere commitment to establish this context. This commitment should take the form of a public resolution to implement risk management on subsequent projects and to make all post mortem findings input to that risk management effort. After all, lessons learned the hard way on past projects are, if nothing else, risks for future projects. Participants are empowered when they know that each issue raised during the post mortem process must be added to the risk database and evaluated methodically on each subsequent project.
Date of Publication: July 1996