Stop throwing away lessons learned or putting them in obscure IT folders no one will ever visit again! Lessons learned have tremendous value for projects - don't waste it. Let's look at four reasons why lessons learned are important:
Don't make the same mistake twice: Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" and Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." if we cannot remember our past mistakes and avoid them, we are simply going to make the same mistakes again. Documenting lessons learned, circulating them, and revisiting them will help ensure we do not repeat mistakes on our projects. And at the same time, those things that were done right will be remembered and done again.
Save money by not reinventing the wheel: Properly recorded lessons learned, including any successful tools, templates, and techniques that were used will help others save project time and money. This will free them for other project work and continue to grow good practices into best practices. I was called upon to manage the re architecture of a software project. It was a success in that it was the first of its kind for an organization, but it was also a failure because it did not deliver in a timely manner for the client. On reviewing lessons learned from the previous attempt, I found a regret that a key output was always reconstructed from the start, instead of being added to. Less than 10 lines of code was able to fix it! This immediately freed the team to work on other pressing issues while providing some relief for the problem.
Memorialize your success: Lessons learned can help an organization memorialize their success, not just failures. The success will serve as a reminder of things that should be done to succeed, as well as be there to build on. Much like the idea of an earth-centric solar system paved the way for the work showing we are actually in a sun-centric world, your project can pave the way to lead others to greatness.
Improve your project management maturity: As projects and project management practices improve, your organization will reach new levels of project maturity. Unfortunately research by Jim Pennypacker and Kevin Grant shows that about two-thirds of all organization perform at level 1 or 2 on a 5-level maturity scale. And yet, PMI's Pulse of the Profession 2016 has shown that projects are two and a half times more successful when proven project management practices are used. Use lessons learned to drive your project management maturity growth and continuous improvement.
As you consider the importance of lessons learned, you may be open to learning about how to better implement them. As Sandra Rowe and Sharon Sikes point out, you do not need to wait for the end of the project. As the project manager, when you see something to be remembered, jot it down. Encourage others to do the same. Larger, longer projects may also want to consider lessons learned at the end of each project phase or major deliverable. Spread the knowledge of lessons learned within your organization to increase success for all!
Subscribe for Our Project Management Resources, Best Practices, and Tips
Confirm your subscription to receive an email with immediate download access to Project Manager's Resources, a valuable list of books and web sites.
Get the latest tips and updates sent directly to your inbox monthly.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.