Danika Wotten

Key Elements for Medical Device Development Project Review Meetings

Trial and Error Lessons From Recent Pilots

There are many methodologies that can be used to conduct medical device development project reviews. I have explored various approaches, workflows, and tools, including a structured survey approach with Microsoft Forms, online collaborative whiteboards approach with Miro, and dedicated project review tools like TeamRetro. Each tool facilitated various workflows, and all had their shining moments and their not-so-great moments.

Through these pilots, I identified key elements that ensure team members leave project review meetings feeling seen, heard, understood, and hopeful about future projects. The following project review elements enable team members to leave meetings equipped with a game plan to address key issues and drive improvements.

  1. Defining Scope of Review: Avoid Recency Bias

I have hosted review meetings where we jumped right into brainstorming successes and challenges to optimize time. We did not clearly define the scope and time period under review. Some team members, influenced by recency bias, only reflected on recent events, while others brought up issues from as far back as two years ago. This led to distracted reflection and conversations as well as inefficient use of time due to confusion about the scope and time period of the review.

Spending a few minutes at the beginning of the project review to define the time period we are reflecting on and refreshing the team on the work and deliverables completed within that time frame ensures everyone is aligned. This sets the stage for a focused and productive brainstorming session, and pertinent action items.

  1. Independent Brainstorming: Unlock Insights Individually

In many project reviews everyone brainstorms ideas simultaneously using openly visible sticky notes. In my experience, team members are unlikely to add their own descriptions if a similar experience was already submitted. This often leads to shallow reflections, consensus bias, and reinforced groupthink.

In contrast, individual brainstorming that is not immediately visible to everyone allows team members to reflect independently and submit their own unique experiences and perspectives. This method encourages honest feedback and deeper insights, fostering a comprehensive exploration of successes and challenges. These deeper insights contribute to more nuanced and effective lessons that can be utilized in future projects. For team members that enjoy simultaneous brainstorming, there is always an opportunity to build on others’ ideas and incorporate personal experiences during the next round of discussion.

  1. Grouping Ideas by Theme: Maintain Original Language in Thematic Insight

Some project reviews use a structured survey approach, collecting all ideas before the meeting and organizing the ideas into categories for efficiency. Discussions are then held at the category level. The downfall with this method is that it forces filtering of the exact words submitted by team members, losing the nuances, emotions, and specific details they wanted to convey. This undermined the input of team members who provided a genuine reflection of their experiences and insights but did not use the category nomenclature.

A better approach is to group ideas by themes while keeping the language submitted in the original comment visible. This method respects individual perspectives, ensures accurate representation of feedback, and fosters transparency and trust within the team. It also allows for discussions at the theme level, and visibility into more specific details about the learning.

  1. Prioritization of Learnings: Create a Focus for Actions

Review meetings where numerous valuable topics are discussed all with the same priority often result in an overwhelming number of actions that could be taken. This leads to delayed action, lack of accountability, and misallocation of resources, ultimately impeding the project team’s ability to make meaningful improvements.

Project Review Meeting Elements


Prioritizing learnings is critical. Success comes from prompting team members to reflect on all topics discussed and to identify, from their perspective, the top five elements that have the most significant impact, positive or negative. Compiling these votes creates a prioritized list of learnings determined by the team. Focus can then be allocated to assigning actions for those impactful elements, ensuring that the most critical issues or opportunities identified during project reviews are addressed promptly and effectively.

Guided retrospectives that allow independent brainstorming, grouping of ideas by themes, prioritization of learnings, and defining scope of review tend to be more successful. Trial and error have led to our current project review framework, but we continue to refine the way we conduct project reviews.

Image source: TeamRetro

Danika Wotten is a Project Engineer at StarFish Medical with a BASc in Mechanical Engineering. She has worked on projects from design to manufacturing, showcasing her technical expertise and comprehensive approach.

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