Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

I cannot think of a project that I have failed at, but I can think of a project that I had a planned schedule for that I did not follow. I was doing a literature search on “The Education, Discipline, and Laws of the Exceptional Child” for one of my undergraduate courses. This project required me to have a minimum of fifteen resources and different portions completed within two weeks. I created a schedule, where I would research and critique three resources per day within the first school week. The second week would be used to compile all the documents and have someone proofread them before getting it bound and submitting it.

I actually ended up doing everything the night before it was due.  I was up all night long and because it was so late before I finished it, there was no one I could have proofread my documents. It was an overwhelming experience, and I was afraid that I would not be successful in completing my project in time. I was also worried about the quality of the information that I would be providing.

The outcome was that I was tired, overwhelmed, and stressed, but I received a great review from my professor as well as a great grade. I think the thing that saved me from having a failing grade is that the subject I chose was something that I had previous knowledge about, and I had a little experience working with exceptional students. Having a set schedule of how to complete the project was a great idea, but because I did not follow the schedule I caused unnecessary stress. I think that the schedule I created was kind of like a simple version of a work breakdown structure. A work breakdown structure is “an organized, detailed, and hierarchical representation of all work to be performed in a project” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, pp. 86).  I was given the assignment, knew what was expected, and then I created a plan or schedule of how I was going to complete the task, who I was going to have to review it, edit, make changes, have it reread, and then have it bound and submitted. The problem is that I did not follow it. Although I received a great grade on my project, I did not receive the maximum amount of points that could have been received.  Had I followed the plan, the possibility of me receiving maximum value would have been greater.


Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



9 thoughts on “Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

  1. Hi Montrice! Thank you for sharing! I am glad that your project ended up having a positive outcome. I do see how this can apply to project management, and I agree that time-management is one of the most important factors. When you are managing a project that involves other people’s deadlines, it becomes even more important to stay focused on the timeline.

  2. This is a great example of a personal work breakdown structure. You knew that planning time/making a schedule to work on your project would be beneficial. I appreciate this example as it is something I would do. Make a plan to work on the project in advance and then end up cramming at the last minute. Isn’t it funny that there are good intentions so you give yourself enough time but in the end you stress yourself out. Why do we do this?? We must work well under pressure!

  3. Hi Kelley,
    Thank you! I agree. I get an adrenaline rush from it, and I feel like I do my best work at the last minute. I have learned though that it’s best to make a plan and stick to it. It will save me from panicking and having an emotional breakdown because of unnecessary stress.

  4. Ah yes, I would like to meet a person that has not done this before. I agree with the above statements.. WHY?? You started off so great with taking the time to map everything out so that all you had to do was a little each day, a great Work Breakdown Schedule, but there was no one else there to keep you on track, no one else that had to sign off on what you said you would do. I tend to do my best work when I know others are counting on me to get my stuff done on time in order to be able to accomplish their part of the project. I think that is the piece we are all missing. When it is just me I can wait until last minute and after that baby is in bed and everything else for the day is done and sit down at 10 at night and finally get started. Every time I wish I wouldn’t wait that long but it is a lesson in time management and sometimes unforeseen things get in the way. This happened to me just this week, I got online and read through all the assignments for the week so I knew what I had to do and when, but I had gotten so used to the Wednesday due date for discussion and Sunday due dates for everything else that even though I read our blog assignment needed to be posted by Thursday, I didn’t write that change down and as the week went my brain automatically replaced Thursday with Sunday. So imagine my disappointment when I signed on today to turn it all in and saw it in fact said THURSDAY. Sigh, we live and learn right? Glad it all worked out ok for you in this case!

    • Thank you Stephanie,
      I agree time management and unforeseen circumstances can indeed have a major affect on how things turn out. Also you are so right about getting used to having one particular schedule and then having to adjust and remember the changes. I have definitely missed deadlines because I have gotten confused on when the correct due dates were. I actually had a problem with my blog. The time a date stamps were incorrect. I don’t know what time zone it was set on but it submitted my posting on the day according to that countries time zone which made it post late. I have figured out how to change the time zone now though. Well, good luck and I look forward to sharing ideas and talking to you more throughout the course.

  5. Hi Montrice,
    I enjoyed reading your post and I can certainly relate to it. I think this probably happened because you felt confident on what needed to be done and it was your responsibility to finish the project on your own. Most likely if it was a group project you would have followed the schedule and would have not been able to procrastinate as others depended on your work to complete the project. The important thing is that you ended up completing it on time but I kept on thinking why do we procrastinate?
    So I found this interesting video
    http://phdtalk.blogspot.com/2013/04/why-do-we-procrastinate.html. There is actually a valid reason 🙂
    Cheers, Massiel

    • Hi Massiel,
      Thank you so much for sharing this video. It was definitely helpful. Yes, I was definitely very confident because I had previous knowledge about the topic so I knew it would not be hard for me to interpret or understand the information. I really must work on not procrastinating. You are definitely right though, I always make sure that when I’m working on a project that I make the deadlines because my portion affects a lot more people when it’s group work.

  6. Prior knowledge plays a huge part in how we learn new knowledge. When you have a connection to previously learned information, you are more likely to remember and apply the information at a later date. In your example, you definitely had prior knowledge working for you. Also, motivation and interest help us to learn and apply new knowledge. Dr. Richard Mayer discusses, in his Triarchic Model of cognitive learning, three key areas to be mindful of in designing meaningful learning and multimedia instruction:
    1. Reduce unnecessary processing by removing information that does not connect with the instructional goal
    2. Manage the information you do present by selecting only relevant information and organizing it in a meaningful way
    3. Think and relate learning and information to prior knowledge of your audience.
    (Mayer, 2013)

    Mayer, D. R. (2013, March 26). Triarchic Model of Cognitive Load Pt1 & 2. Video Media, Walden University.

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