Learning from project failures

I recently wrote a blog called Project failure – Do We Ever Learn . This is not the first time I have written about learning and project management so imagine my surprise when I saw a report from National Audit Office (NAO) called “Helping Government Learn”. Now before you are all turned off from reading, this is a good read; it contains a lot of valuable learning!

I nail my colours to the mast here; I started my career as a trainer and consultant. I saw the workplace as a great place to learn. It is a rich place to gain knowledge and skills but, not everyone thinks as I do!

There have been many reports on government projects before so why is this different? This report takes a different slant. It looks at learning; suggesting it is a key organisational issue. The report from the NAO identified a number of points:

• 90% of management boards rarely discuss learning at their meetings
• they suggested that silo structures prevent learning across the civil service
• there are ineffective mechanisms to support learning
• there is a high turnover within the workforce
• there a lack of time for learning

It seems that sharing learning within the civil service is not common. However, how common is it in the company where you work? My experience suggests there are few organizations that really do learn from projects.

Now some of you reading this may well say so what? The problem is actually very simple; unless we learn from our mistakes (and our successes); we will only continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

The report suggests a number of changes:

• making staff feel it is safe to speak about project failure

• encouraging knowledge sharing by project teams

• ensuring that there is systematic reflection on performance during and after a project – even if it means delaying moving on to the next project for a while

• make sure learning from consultants is captured before they leave – build it into the contract

The report is almost 60 pages long, has videos to support it and you can download it here . Let’s hope we can all learn – from each other!

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One Response to Learning from project failures

  1. Michiko Diby says:

    Great Post! Thanks for writing about the report, I look forward to reading it. I also wholeheartedly agree on the importance of creating a safe space for frank discussions on failure.

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