Hot! Project Management – Ensuring Important Lessons are Learned

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Lessons learned offer us a valuable opportunity to take previous experience and modify our approach such lessonsthat we avoid some of the pitfalls that can be anticipated and handled before they have a negative effect on our progress.  Unfortunately, often in the drive to see a project complete, the incorporation of lessons learned is often omitted from the overall project management process.  There are two aspects to lessons learned that need to be addressed within projects, ideally:

a)    Incorporate previous lessons into a current or planned project

b)    Capture lessons from a current project

Overlooking lessons within the project process should really be seen as a waste of both time and resources.  You wouldn’t waste money buying the same reference book time and again, everytime you need to use it – you would simply refer back to the original!  Why continually make the same mistakes if the learning, simply captured and shared, can avoid this? 

Where organizations do make an effort to capture lessons, many of these are often lost in individual storage areas, stored in different formats (spreadsheets, databases) rather than in a single consistent form – making them difficult then to search and disseminate appropriately.

Lessons learned within projects will often not be captured for a number of different reasons:

  • Capturing lessons is often viewed as an additional task that needs to be resourced and has no direct benefit to the current project.
  •  The process for capturing and sharing lessons learned is not embedded within the project approach for an organization, so teams often don’t realize they should be carrying this out!

A successful lessons learned process will be embedded as an integral part of an organization’s project management approach and will cover:

  •  The effective capture of lessons at the right level of detail
  • Appropriate categorization and storage of lessons in a repository that is accessible to all who need it
  • Communications around lessons, for example, notification to the appropriate recipients on updates to the lessons learned

Project management is supported widely with online applications such as, Basecamp, WORKetc, 5pm and many others in this space, but none of these applications explicitly cater for effective lessons learned as an integral part of the overall management process.  Whilst many offer a wiki-type feature which, of course, could be used basecampto capture lessons, perhaps these online project management tools should look to introduce some specific functionality that will help encourage the successful capture and sharing of lessons, as a part of best practice in project management.

 

Author

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.

6 Comments

  1. Really good blogpost. Right on target

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