PM Foundations – Project Closure Feedback Survey

When project managers discuss project closure, the primary best practice that they focus on is the lessons learned process. Although I agree that lessons learned represents an integral best practice area performed during project closure, I do not believe it represents the “only” best practice for gathering stakeholder feedback. The project closure feedback survey represents a “safe” vehicle for project stakeholders to provide thoughtful input. People that may not speak up during a lessons learned discussion are more likely to provide valuable feedback on a project closure survey. The project closure feedback also provides the ability to capture project closure metrics (in addition to “free form” comments and ideas). In addition, performing the project closure feedback survey process provides the ability to bring a little more structure to the lessons learned session. Rather than starting from a “blank sheet of paper”, the lessons learned discussion can be organized around the major themes / observations captured in the project closure feedback survey.

Survey Content

The project closure feedback survey should be focused on gathering input from the stakeholders in two areas:

  • Does the product delivered meet the stakeholder’s expectations?
  • Did the processes associated with completing the project work meet the stakeholder’s expectations?

The following represent key topics covered within the survey:

  • Business results – Has the project/product enabled the anticipated business results/benefits?
  • Expectation / requirements – Were the expectations and requirements of the project / product well defined and understood on the project team? Were the requirements effectively implemented? Were the expectations met?
  • Communications – Was communications about the project effective and timely? Were the appropriate communications vehicles utilized? Did communications include the appropriate content?
  • Project Execution – How effective were the process and tools to complete project work? Were the appropriate plans in place to properly guide the project team throughout the project life cycle?
  • Overall – Overall rating of the success of the project (both what was delivered, and how it was delivered).
  • Comments – Blank area for stakeholders to provide feedback about things that were done well on the project, and areas for improvement.

Below is the project closure survey that I frequently utilize to capture feedback from stakeholders.

This sample survey highlights some of the best practices associated with capturing feedback about the project:

  • The survey should include a limited number of questions. If there are too many questions, people will not take the time to complete it.
  • Provide space for comments after each question. This encourages people to provide explanations for their score (particularly for high or low scores).
  • At the end of the survey provide an area to capture general comments. What are the things done well? What are the areas for improvement? These comments often help to identify “themes” for the lessons learned discussions.

Survey Distribution

Feedback should be solicited from key project stakeholders:

  • People that participated in completing the project deliverables (anyone whose name is on the project schedule). You need to decide if the person’s role is significant enough for them to have feedback about the project (error on the side of being inclusive).
  • People that participated in oversight of the project (steering committee, project sponsors)
  • People that provided input from the business areas that are impacted by the project (key end-users or subject matter experts).

If you think feedback may vary based upon the groups completing the survey, you may want to capture some demographics related information (e.g., business vs. IT, management vs. team member). The demographic information is especially relevant if you think it may influence the follow-up actions (e.g., end-users are not happy with the product delivered, IT feels the scope was constantly changing).

Collaboration tools such as SharePoint provide the capability to conduct the survey within the team’s project site. There are also other survey tools that may be available at a client. The easier it is for the stakeholder to open and complete the survey, the more likely they will take the time to do it. Do not underestimate this fact.

Summarizing Survey Results

It is important to give the stakeholders a deadline to complete the survey, and then summarize and provide the results in a timely manner. The information provided in the survey is generally a good starting point for the lessons learned discussions. Therefore the survey deadline, publishing survey results, and scheduling the lessons learned session are best planned and communicated at the same time, when the project closeout process is initiated.

The following activities are included in the process of summarizing survey results:

  • Compute the survey metrics. What is the average score? What is the distribution/deviation from the average score (e.g., number of high or low scores)?
  • Summarize comments for the rating. Highlight/summarize the comments for questions that provide insights in terms of why people feel the way they did when providing the rating.
  • Using demographics to explain results. The demographics data may assist in providing insights around the results (e.g., IT was not happy with the way the work was estimated)?
  • Grouping Comments. You are looking for common themes about things that went well or could be improved. Grouping the comments into the common themes provides potential topics to launch discussions during the lessons learned session. Some guidelines on the defining the themes:

Will the theme be understood by the stakeholders (e.g., not too general)

Look for areas that you are likely to get consensus (not just one person’s opinion)

Is the theme likely to lead to something actionable (capitalizing on something done well, or implementation of improvement)

Stakeholder Feedback Best Practices

In my experience the following are the key best practices associated with capturing project closure feedback, and communicating survey results:

  • Solicit and communicate feedback in a timely manner – Try to complete the project closure feedback process before most people transition out of their role on the project. It is important that the project is “fresh in their minds” when they are providing feedback. In addition, do not wait too long after the survey is conducted to communicate the results.
  • Keep the survey simple – The survey must be easy to access, and not too time consuming to complete.
  • Target the right people – Make sure you distribute the survey to people that were involved enough in the project to provide valuable insights. However, error on the side of being inclusive in the survey process.
  • Does not need to be conducted just at the end of the project – You do not need to wait until the end of the project to capture feedback. It is often helpful to capture feedback at key milestones also. This gives you an opportunity to make “course corrections” for the next phase of the project.
  • Do something with the information captured – Make sure that the appropriate next steps are initiated after the survey is completed. The most common next step for this process is to set up the lessons learned session to elaborate on the feedback, and formalize the action items / assignments.
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