There is a well-known saying that says:
“You learn something new everyday”
In project management we should create a saying that says:
“Never decide, without consulting the lessons learned”
What are the lessons learned?
They are the knowledge that we obtain and that we generate in the projects that we are managing. This knowledge acquired through our experience must be:
Analyzed: When I talk about analysis, I do not just mean to study what has happened and how it has influenced us in the project. If we really want to learn, help the organization and the projects that will come after ours we have to go further, we have to identify the effects, and find out which one or which were the underlying causes that caused that “effect” that impacted positively or negatively in our projects.
Documented: Following the pattern or guide of our organization (probably following the instructions of the PMO – Project Management Office) and
Positions available to the organization: This may be the most complex part, the lessons learned must transcend the teams that generate them, organizations should have processes or tools that facilitate this work.
The final intention is that these experiences “lived” in these projects can be (or, rather, should be) used in the following projects as a starting point and as a reference of things to repeat or aspects to improve, or to avoid.
The lessons learned should include information on both the successes and the failures that have made the Projects we have participated in been successful or have failed, so that other Project Managers, or perhaps yourself, could benefit from the information that is collected in them.
You can easily imagine how useful it can be, when choosing a supplier, to consult the lessons learned and find out that in Project “A” the supplier “X” has managed to supply before the date so the Project has not suffered no delay, or that in Project “B”, the supplier “Y”, due to its continuous delays, has produced a resounding failure in the Project.
This important information about what happened in previous projects should be stored in an appropriate way, so that it can be consulted as easily as possible, so that it helps decision making in conflictive situations that we find in future projects. This will mean that when the Project Team faces similar situations, it will reduce the risk and improve the response time.
Now, a recurring question that Project Managers ask in all the courses I teach is:
When should the lessons learned be reflected?
The recommendation of PMI (Project Management Institute) is that the lessons learned have to be developed at the end of the Project, that is to say with its closure. In fact, it is an exit from the process of closing Project or phase.
My experience in Project Management has made me realize that leaving the writing of lessons learned to the end is not a good idea. With the course of the Project they forget details that can be very important when writing the lessons, or even stop recording some lessons that can be very useful.
Therefore, I consider it important to say very clearly that experiences are recorded as the Project is being developed.
It is also important to go documenting little by little, since if we leave it for the end the lessons learned come with the “bias” of the final result of the project, and if the project was a success it is more likely that we will only remember good things, On the contrary, if the project was a failure, it is probable that the successes that helped the project will not be documented, and those good practices that were created and that we will only remember the “bad” things.
How to document the lessons learned can be done in many ways, but if we start with a simple template, that all the members of the Project Team know, it makes the task much easier. And… I assure you that this template will evolve in a very positive way with the contributions of the whole team to adapt to your way of working.
When the Project is closed, your task as Project Director is to ensure that all the team reviews that template and create among all the official document of lessons learned from the Project, which must be passed on to the Process Assets of the Organization to help to those who come behind
Ana Aranda is Lead Expert in the area of Project Management at Netmind. With more than 25 years of professional experience, Ana has the following certifications associated with Project Management, Business Analysis and Team Management: as Project Management Professional (PMP®), license to perform MYERS-BRIGGS Type Indicator (MBTI®), Business Analysis Associate, PRINCE2® Foundation & Practitioner, SAFe 4 Certified Program Consultant, PRINCE2 Approved Trainer, is qualified as Leading SAFe 4 (4.5), SAFE Product Owner/Program Manager 4 (4.5) and SAFE Scrum Master 4 (4.5). Ana is a Telecommunications Technical Engineer and holds a Master of Human Resource Management in the company from the Company University Foundation, an institution promoted by the Official Chamber of Commerce in Industry of Madrid.