Capturing lessons learned should be a continuous effort throughout a project’s lifespan. Projects are enormous endeavours that come with a slew of difficulties. Local and international competitiveness, alliances, project performance volatility, contractual challenges, and personnel turnover are among the concerns. These difficulties are significant in and of themselves. The issues also impact how lessons learned are conducted and the value of their application and reuse.
Lessons learned are an efficient and successful approach to sharing essential project knowledge as an extension of project management. Sharing knowledge about certain project stages that went according to plan, the areas that might be improved, and strategies to fix these issues before moving on to the next phase are all part of the lessons learned process.
Lessons learned can be broadly defined as involving various activities and processes. However, lessons learned are frequently done superficially and with resistance. Inevitably, critical project information is not always documented or disseminated for future reference. These issues contribute to higher project costs, longer timelines, a lack of communication, a lot of rework, and expensive blunders.
Why are Lessons Learned Important?
The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates that half of all new businesses fail within the first five years. A company that dedicates itself to lessons learned has a higher chance of surviving than one that does not. Hiring exceptional project managers ensures that these procedures develop over time.
Lessons learned relate to the documented experiences of a project, both positive and negative. Lessons learned are primarily used to improve project results by identifying areas for improvement or expanding practical approaches. Teams may adapt their procedures and practices on future projects by analysing what worked and what did not on previous initiatives.
Lessons learned provide PMO leaders significant insight into the skills, experiences, and behaviours that teams require to succeed, allowing them to organise training and continuous development programmes better. Conducting lessons learned sessions also aids in the development of team trust. Allowing team members to offer their perspectives on what went right and wrong throughout the project will make them feel more involved and encourage them to support the project management approach.
Finally, the lessons learned can majorly influence the company’s operations and teamwork.
Why Is the Lessons Learned Phase Frequently Ignored?
According to a survey of PM’s, lessons learned were considered important by 87% of individuals, but only 22% were doing it.
The lessons learned may be skipped for a variety of reasons. It is usually due to time constraints, instant favourable outcomes, long-term exhaustion, or the difficulty of bringing everyone together again.
Not everyone sees the value in reviewing something that was just finished, especially if a post-launch monitoring period or pilot is underway. It is common for too much time to pass before lessons learned are considered. If you integrate lessons learned as part of the closure process, you will get the best outcomes right after the project ends.
Lesson Learned Process
The lessons learned process is defined by the Project Management Institute’s ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge’ as a “collection of interconnected actions and activities conducted to accomplish a specified set of goods, results, or services.” The lessons learned method consists of five parts: Identify, Document, Analyse, Store, and Retrieve are the steps.
Let us examine them in more detail with some tips for best practice:
Begin by reassessing what went well and what did not during the project you just finished and what needs improvement. This should be done during the project’s lessons learned session, including all the project’s primary stakeholders.
The facilitator should submit a survey to the participants before the session. It should include detailed questions about the project’s many features. It is also critical to get their input on what worked, what did not, and what may be improved. Participants will benefit from the survey – not just through better preparation – but also in guiding the dialogue amongst them.
During the discussion, summarise the survey results and analyse them alongside other critical data to identify project failures and successes. You should have a list of recommendations for future project enhancements by its conclusion.
The results will be documented in a full report at the following stage in the process. It should include participant input on the project’s merits and faults and suggestions for development.
Once the report is finished, distribute it to the project’s internal and external stakeholders. While you can give the leadership a summary of the complete report, the whole piece can be shared as an attachment for future reference
Analyse and arrange the lessons learnt throughout this process to determine how to apply them. The essential personnel training and project management process improvements are then chosen.
You may then develop an action plan that outlines the required tasks and the relevant parties/ departments, resources, and a timetable
Keep any lessons learned documents in a centralised location, such as a shared drive, where the project team and other departments and stakeholders can access them
To enhance the present project procedures, consult the lessons learned materials. Create folders for each sort of project and correctly organise them by date or project name to improve the retrievability of these papers. It would be easier for anybody to get the reports if the programme you use to store them had a keyword search feature.
What are the Best Practices for Lessons Learned in Project Management?
It is important to think about the best practices for your specific team. The following are some good general best practices for project management lessons learned:
– Collect data regularly: Survey your staff and organise informal discussions. The more information you have, the better.
– Don’t assign blame: A team succeeds by working together and making errors together. Instead of antagonism, encourage companionship and collaboration.
– Get the Whole Team Involved: Everyone working in a business, from the intern to the CEO, should be able to provide ideas.
– Keep Your Findings Documented: Make sure your reports are well-documented and searchable in storage so you can quickly access key lessons gained from previous ventures.
– Review Previous Lessons: Create a system for evaluating lessons learnt at each step of a project and keep it up to date.
– Wrap up the project: To wind up activities, hold a project retrospective.
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