Lessons learned or lessons identified…?

Last week I wrote about different countries – same project management issues. The article highlighted some of the problem faced by project staff, issues that are pretty common in all of the countries visited.

But what are companies doing? This is a question I asked within the article. The reality is very little!

On a recent project management course I decided to try and encourage course participants to think about this question. I gave them an activity where they had to develop a process for sharing learning on a case study project.

"The outcome of the activity is shown above, hoever the group agreed there is an over emphasis on lessons learned...."

“The outcome of the activity is shown above, however the group agreed there is an over emphasis on lessons learned….”

The interesting aspect of this activity was the over reliance on lessons learned reports.

I mentioned:

  • that lessons can only be learned once an identified lesson has been actioned. There were smiles around the room as many people realised that lessons had been identified BUT not actioned. There was no mechanism for sharing the identified lessons other than on the lessons learned reports
  • how many people actually look at these reports once produced? I asked the group and only 2 people had gone in search, the rest…no. I also pointed to some words on LinkedIn by Louise Worsley:

“I recently had an MSc student who did her dissertation in this area. She found that despite 80% of projects running post implementation reviews (PIR), less than 20% of PIR reports were ever re-accessed and there was little evidence of organisational learning.” (APM Forum.)

I then asked what they were going to do…..but, the question is larger than this. What are YOU going to do to start the sharing the lessons identified and what are you going to do to convert them to lessons learned?

This is surely a wasted opportunity for companies? It could help improve the bottom line; cutting out the same errors, delivering just that bit quicker. But, what are companies doing to learn lessons? Or are they still lessons identified?

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3 Responses to Lessons learned or lessons identified…?

  1. Casey S. says:

    If companies want to learn a lesson from each project they undertake, they need to identify first the lesson to be learned. Sometimes, this step is slightly overlooked unfortunately. Considering these two processes are linked together, probably revision and analysis should have a greater importance than they currently have.

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Hi Casey. Many thanks for the comment.

      You said it all; I agree with you entirely.

      It’s lost opportunity all way round.

      Thanks again.


  2. Ian Cribbes says:

    One way I have tried to implement in the past (on projects where I was the Project Manager) was to add a mandatory step into the PID stipulating that Lessons Observed from previous, similar projects had been studied to see what could be transferred (learned) into the current project. Did get some resistance but it generally worked.

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