Friday, June 05, 2009

Making Lessons Learned Work

I had a project go live this week, always a good thing. I mentioned that we ran our retrospective last week. Today I came full circle with that discussion. I pulled together the other PMs in the company for an internal discussion of the results of the retrospective.

We did find one common theme that extended to other projects we've executed. And while we discussed how to address the issue, that isn't the point here (but maybe for a future blog post). Today I wanted to discuss knowledge management.

Knowledge management is about changing behavior. If I conduct a lessons learned session and in the future review those notes as I'm preparing for a future project, that's a step in the right direction. It beats putting the notes in a shared drive and never looking at them again. If I pull together my community to discuss the outcomes, that's even better.

So what have you learned lately and who have you shared it with? Do you have an internal team to share with? Would it be a good blog post? Maybe an article for a magazine. Don't just keep it to yourself.


Susan said...


Having been involved in numerous Lessons Learned Workshops I would say they are a great way for getting feedback from the team on what can be done better the next time.

The problem is that often the changes which are suggested involve the general way teams work rather than anything at the project level. When these findings are sent out to senior management who have the power to implement the necessary changes, nothing ever happens because there are too many vested interests keen to see the same process followed.

So basically whenever I see the words Lessons Learned written my enthusiasm fails. There basically needs to be a way in which senior management will take on board the project findings and make the necessary changes. Instead of which the priority becomes the next project to be delivered.

Obviously if someone else has had a better experience then that would be terrific to hear.


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Frido said...

When attending the PMI Research Congress in Warsaw last yr I heard about a 'database of risks & issues' as a powerfull tool.

I'm imagening that the PMO would update this dbase with learnings and an interface on such a dbase could pull common risks, issues based on certain characteristics; eg: outsourcing to a certain preferred vendor would instantly trigger the learnings with this vendor in the past.

Anybody any ideas or experiences with such a risks/issues database?

Bob Tarne said...

Frido - At a previous client, I created a database for lessons learned. It was a simple Access database with some general reporting capabilities. Once we loaded up information from a number of projects, we were able to see some trends and identify some "best practices" for the organization to start following.

Bob Tarne said...

Susan - I have been in your situation. I try to focus on changes the team can make themselves. I also see if there are creative ways to work around the obstacles management may have to some of the other ideas.