Lessons learned are one of the most significant and at times highly ignored elements in the discipline of Project Management. Ignored because they are mostly comprehensively documented without actually getting implemented. At times, nobody even bothers to look at them, once done with the project. But we still try to persuade people to collect them.
So should we not collect them?
But maybe we should re-think what and how we use themfor.
And for that to happen, we need to change the mindset that lessons learned are collected at the end of the project. Instead, if we collect lessons learned at every major milestone and also at the end of project phases, we can actually take advantage of those lessons and experiences on the very project we are working on.
We can use the lessons learned to improve our processes, training programs, checklists, and templates. And when we realize that we did not adequately capture the customer’s requirements for performance, security, and ease of use, we can then add questions in those areas to our standard questionnaires, when we realize that our use case diagrams are too detailed and overlapping and we have too many of them, we can provide training and templates in order to improve future efforts.
Excessively large lessons learned documents create complicated databases where nobody can find or extract any useful information. Those efforts discourage lessons learned since they take work and it is hard to see the value.
The ultimate purpose of documented lessons learned is to provide future project teams with information that can increase effectiveness and efficiency and build on the experience that has been earned by each completed project. If documented and disseminated properly, lessons learned to provide a powerful method of sharing ideas for improving work processes, operation, quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness, etc. and helps improve management decision making and worker performance through every phase of a project. They also help validate some of the tougher times endured during the project’s life and helps future Project Managers avoid similar difficulties.
Lessons Learned and the related best practices to implement:
Provide Accessibility – Make lessons learned accessible to other projects as well.
Sharing project knowledge (Lessons Learned) in a way makes similar projects optimized and is the driving factor for cross-project learning. In agile project management, projects are optimized in iterative intervals within a project – the project team learns from each other and the stakeholders to improve upon the project deliverables as they are being implemented.
Cross-project learning is a process or practice of “capturing the learning from projects so that it is available for use by other projects.
In Agile implementations, each iteration can be described as a component project. Lessons learned are the learning gained from the process of performing the project and they may be identified at any point during the project. They are also considered a project record, to be included in the lessons learned knowledge base which is a store for historical information and lessons learned which includes both the outcomes of decisions made on the previous project and previous project performance.
he terms cross-project learning and lessons learned are used to describe the process of creating and sharing project knowledge. According to some experts, the reasons for failing to use knowledge (lesson learned) revolve around informal knowledge capturing processes, the lack of integration with the organization’s processes or the lack of support by the structure of the organization.
Given the differing project organizational structures and practices, the project failure rate, and the need for further research in cross-project learning, the work is still in progress to understand the challenges associated with project knowledge sharing by investigating how Project Managers can improve their perceived effectiveness and performance by more efficiently sharing and using project knowledge.
Finally, project knowledge sharing and use – the practice of retrieving knowledge informally and having inclusive and frequent project review meetings, engaging in complete lessons learned lifecycle—is influenced by a project environment which is committed to improving project management and proactively making project knowledge accessible.
Professional project management courses in internationally recognized methodologies such as PMP Training can assist organizations in developing team members, Managers and encourage them to collect and store Lessons Learned on their projects so that the mistakes can be avoided on future projects and learnings can be implemented to achieve the desired efficiency.