In the 17 years I also tried, every time, to learn and understand what happened in the project and why it was a failure, a challenge or a success. It lead to a large set of "sanity checklists" and other best practices. And also to quite some analysis-tools. In this post I want to share 5 easy diagrams as tools for analysis of the project you are working in (or better: about to work in). The tools deal with simple questions you can research within your project. It leads typically to 2 answers: the way it is currently, and the way it should be to be able to deliver succesfully.
Model 1 deals with the process or method you need to choose to deliver the projectproducts.
Two simple questions, try to answer them, map out where it lands in the diagram and then compare to the method that has been chosen for the project (hopefully it was a deliberate choice, and not the often occuring "goodwilling people, yet chaos approach").
Model 2 deals with the amount of ceremony in terms of process and documentation you will need. Again two simple questions.... This tool is great to work with people that either want to overstructure/overdocument when it is not required or people that want to travel very very light, when more is needed...
Model 3 deals with control on the content in your project (so, not on time/cost, which typically already gets enough attention). This deals with: how do we deal with uncertainty in requirements or design. I see many projects that fail to create control over these vital elements. The results are typically confusion, failing assumptions and rework...
Model 4 deals with leadership versus group-behaviour. I have seen projects deliver with low leadership or low groupcohesion, but the combination of these situations is typically deadly. I believe in groups and the great work that can be done by them, but only if they are willing to allign to goals and have enough social cohesion. Usually this occurs if you are working with people that have enough skills and limited ego to cooperate or a strong leader that is able to align people...
The last model is about you (or the people you depend on in the project, enabling you to deliver your scope of the project). I developed it when in a certain project I was very unhappy. I tried to understand why - and found that I was very involved/committed, but had no real influence, in a project which was heading for disaster. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, with only three options - get more influence (tried, no succes) or don't care anymore (not my style), or... get out. I choose the last option, with no regrets. The project failed 3 months later.
More lessons and tools welcome!