Project Debriefs As An Agency Ritual

Ways of Working

Project debrief sessions have been invaluable to our culture at Barrel for as long as I can remember. Regardless of the project type, they create space for the team to take a step back, reflect on how a project unfolded, and discuss key takeaways and lessons for future projects. Needless to say, when project debriefs are happening consistently, you can feel the momentum across the agency.

A few months ago, we noticed an opportunity to improve our project debrief process, creating more discipline around project debriefing and better engaging the entire team with key takeaways.

In this essay, I'll share our process for running project debriefs and what happens post-debrief.


We schedule one project debrief session per month at a minimum. Having this standard has helped build more discipline around debriefing. If no fixed fee projects recently ended, there is always an opportunity within our retainer accounts to debrief as a team.

We currently manage our project debrief schedule in Notion. The project debrief schedule is also on the agenda for our weekly Partners meeting to confirm monthly scheduling.

Project Debrief Schedule in Notion
Project Debrief Schedule in Notion


To facilitate more cross-disciplinary sharing, we used to invite the Barrel partners and team leads to every debrief session along with the core project team. As one might imagine, this became challenging to coordinate. On top of that, there was no clear path for later team sharing, so including everyone was not the best use of time.

Project debrief sessions today include:

  • Project team
  • Executive Sponsor
  • Sei-Wook (Co-founder, COO/President) who oversees agency financials

We may also include contractors in our session. It depends on their project role and relationship with the agency.


Every debrief session follows the same format. At least one week before the scheduled meeting, the Account lead will notify the team about the debrief, reminding all l project team attendees to come prepared with at least three thoughts on the following:

  1. What went well
  2. What could we have done better/differently
  3. What lessons can we take to the next project

While the team prepares, Sei-Wook puts together a financial report on the project. If the project is a retainer, we look at all financials to date. The breakdown includes:

Budget: $XX,XXX

  • Contractor Costs (if applicable)
  • $XX,XXX remaining to Barrel
  • $X,XXX Barrel Cost

$XX,XXX Barrel Profit

  • XX% Profit Margin
  • Original Projected Margin: XX%
  • Original Projected Profit: $XX,XXX
  • Did Not Meet or Exceeded Profit Expectation

Project financials are a recent addition to our debrief discussions.They've been great for educating the team on how our business works and seeing the impact of decisions we make throughout a project.


Project debrief sessions are run by Account Leads using a Notion template. Before the session, the Account Lead will work with Sei-Wook to get all upfront details captured. In addition to agency financials, we include:

  • Client background
  • Project type
  • URL
  • Start date
  • Team
  • Client feedback

These details are included for future reference and as context for non-project team members.

During the session, the Account Lead shares their screen and documents the conversation directly in Notion. The thought starters are a nice way to generate conversation and make sure we're looking at the project from all angles.

Project debrief template in Notion
Project debrief template in Notion

Notes from all project debrief sessions exist in a central Notion database for all team members to reference at their leisure.


Executive Sponsor Recap

A few key takeaways often rise to the surface during project debrief sessions. As a follow-up, the Executive Sponsor synthesizes the raw session notes into a digestible format. The two areas we focus on are:

  • Lessons & Takeaways: The top 5 themes from our internal project debrief.
  • In the future: Considerations and changes to how we’ll do similar projects in the future.

The fun part about the latter section is that we often evolve how we work in real-time based on project experiences. "In the future" helps connects the dots to those changes and ensures they get shared with the larger team.

Tuesday Meetup: Closing the Gap

Tuesday Meetup is a weekly team-wide meeting. The focus of this meeting changes week-to-week, rotating between team growth workshops, ice breaker questions, team sharing, and a session called Closing the Gap.

Closing the Gap is once per month and serves as a roundup of the latest project debriefs. During these meetings, Sei-Wook presents the project financials; the Executive Sponsor walks through the key lessons and takeaways and how we've applied these insights for future work.

Select sides from Tuesday Meetup: Closing the Gap
Select sides from Tuesday Meetup: Closing the Gap

Following the Closing the Gap presentation, the Executive Sponsor emails a link to the project debrief Notion post for future reference.

So Far, So Good

I have enjoyed seeing this process in action over the last few months. It has been a game-changer in the sense that there is a constant dialogue around how we work and ways we can improve together.

As always, I am excited to see how this process evolves and changes as we get more debriefs (with this process) under our belts.

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