17 Questions to debrief your project

Do you evaluate your instructional design process? No, I don’t mean whether the learning solution meets the organisational and learning goals. More the communication with the client, the specific requirements, the collaboration within the team, how proud you are of the final deliverables, and so on.
It doesn’t matter how you call this. I’ve heard project evaluation, a project debrief, project close, project evaluation, retrospective or hands down. I’ll call it a debrief here.

Let’s look at some reasons to debrief, who you should invite and what questions to ask.

Why would you debrief?

The focus should be about learning from the project and do better next time.

Let me give you an example. I worked on a series of branched elearning modules as a freelancer and the client had very specific requirements for the photos to be used. Sourcing those images took longer than usual and there was a lot of going back and forth. Fast forward, the client asked for an extension of that series of modules. I was brought back in at a later stage. Before I started storyboarding, I raised a few things that I learnt from the previous project. One of them was whether the client would source their own photos this time because, based on the topic, I knew this would be ‘next level’.

If there would have been a proper debrief of the project (there’s a proper process now), these requirements would have been discussed at the start of the project and included in the proposal.

Apart from learning, debriefing is also about adjourning. According to Bruce Tuckman’s stages of group development, adjourning is the last phase. A debrief is a good moment to mark the end of the project for your team. Even if they’ve already jumped on another one. It offers your team a chance to celebrate its successes, share experiences and properly close a project.

Who needs to be invited for the debrief?

Surely, you do this debrief with all your core team members. Make sure everybody feels comfortable and gets a chance to share their thoughts and experiences freely but respectfully. Debriefing is not about finger pointing but about learning and growing together.

It’s also a good habit to debrief the project with your client. It strengthens your relationship and offers a different perspective. I recommend doing this separately, so you get honest opinions and nobody’s holding back because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. With your client, you’d discuss whether they’re satisfied with the final deliverables, the process and the communication.

What debrief questions could you ask?

Let me share 10 questions you’d like to get answered in your team debrief:
1. How did we work together as a team? 2. How did we manage deadlines and the budget? 3. How did we cope with setbacks and what could we do next time? 4. What were the biggest enablers in this project? 5. How well did we communicate with the client? 6. What should we bear in mind when we work with this client again? 7. If we would do this project again, what would you do differently? 8. What did we do so well that we could replicate in other projects? 9. What did you learn from this project? 10. What should we be proud of?

You’d ask slightly different questions to your client. Here are some example questions:

1. What’s your overall experience of working with us?
2. How was the communication between your team and ours?
3. How well did we manage deadlines and your budget?
4. What were you pleased with?
5. What could we improve on?
6. How satisfied are you with the final deliverables?
7. How likely would it be for you to work with us again?’s

Keep in mind that you don’t need to ask all these questions and feel free to ask follow-up questions where you see fit.

Debrief, debrief, debrief

Debriefing is about learning from the project, growing as a team and relationship building with your client. Set one hour aside for both your team debrief and your client debrief and you’ll be stronger as a team and become a better learning design partner for your client.
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