Hot! Learn Lessons for Successful Projects

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There’s a saying that goes something like: If we keep doing what we always did, we keep getting what we always got! Andpm that is so true in terms of project performance. If we keep using the same flawed methods and approaches, the resulting outcomes will never change and will never improve.  If, however, we look at what we’ve done and analyze what has worked and what hasn’t, we have the opportunity to make a positive change that will impact on both current and forthcoming projects.

So, the ability to learn lessons from project experience is a key element in any project’s success. Anyone, doing any job builds up a level of experience and project managers are no exception.  By capturing that experience through lessons learned, we make valuable insights into a knowledge base available to others who may not have that same level of experience and who might otherwise fall into pitfalls along the way.

By taking a systematic and structured approach to identifying and recording lessons learned you will immediately stack the odds in your favour to help avoid delays that can occur when things don’t go as well as planned.

So what are lessons learned and how do they help us? Lessons learned should highlight:

  • any mistakes that we have made so far in our project approach. Knowing what these are will help us to identify and avoid them in the future
  • those activities and methods that worked so we can capitalize on their success and ensure we use them again

It’s not difficult to see the real benefit that can be achieved by capturing valuable lessons, yet often, it’s an activity that is often disregarded.  Learning lessons takes time and it’s easy to get carried away with the importance of project delivery. Lessons should be considered and captured throughout the whole lifetime of a project and should be an integrated activity within the overall project approach, rather than a single action at the end (which will be too late for the current project!).  Use of an online tool to manage and share captured lessons, such as, Central Desktop or Basecamp, will help ensure that all who need access to the lessons can see them.

A structured approach to learning lessons involves engagement with stakeholders, organised sessions, sharing findings, etc, all of which is time consuming – the smart project manager will ensure that the time is taken to dedicate to lessons, because, in the long run, it will save time and improve project outcomes.


Jan Birley

Jan holds a PhD in computing and started out in software development and IT training. She built a strong career as a project and program manager focusing on IT in the Health Service sector. Jan specializes in taking greenfield and immature services/departments to effective business-as-usual operation and is currently responsible for the delivery of clinical assessment forms into a high profile clinical system. Jan has authored 100′s of articles on project-management related topics.

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