Project managers are consistently learning and evolving as they move from project to project but how often do you actively log the details or ask yourself what did you learn from your last Project?
The knowledge and experience they gain from previous projects can prove highly valuable to the success of future projects. However no matter how much experience they have there will be times when they make the wrong the decision and their project gets delayed or even fails.
Instead of focusing on the negatives the project manager needs to take some positives from it. One way to do this is by taking the opportunity to learn from these mistakes and bad decisions. A popular action taken by project managers is conducting a lessons learned review at the end of every project. When this is done correctly it can contribute to the success of future projects as it will encourage the recycling of good ideas and highlight the avenues that previously didn’t work well. By having a controlled approach to how you gather this information you can make a huge difference to an organizations costs, project quality and resource time.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are conducting a lessons learned review following the completion of your project:
Who needs to be involved?
Only have the people that should be there at the review. Determine who these people are at the beginning. Do you involve the core members only? The entire project team? Management? Stakeholders? The level of information and insight you wish to gain will determine the people you wish to be involved.
Save the Date
Once a project is complete it is very easy to get distracted by the next project. There will be a feeling of moving backwards not forwards when conducting your lessons learned review by some people. Therefore it is important to pre schedule this review and put it in as part of the project plan. This encourages full participation for all involved.
Keep it Simple
You don’t want to put hours of resource time into this. You need to keep it simple and to the point. What do you want to know can be broken down into four short questions:
- What went well during the project?
- What could have gone better?
- How can we do more of what went well?
- How do we ensure that what went wrong doesn’t happen again?
By keeping the discussion around these four questions you are keeping a focus on the task at hand.
Capture the Information
Assign one person to take the notes during the review. This ensures that the right information is recorded. All information, ideas and actions can then be documented correctly into a single database.
Using the Information
Your database of information will continue to grow and become a central hub of project knowledge. The information can be distributed and used to improve project processes and stop the same mistakes rising again. Access to this information should be encouraged and suggestions should be welcomed to continually improve the lessons learned data. The lessons learned process, if done correctly, can hold many benefits around the future success of projects. It won’t solve all of your project management problems or prevent mistakes from happening however you will start to notice that over time, improvements will be made.
Follow the steps above and then, before planning your next project, ask yourself what did you learn from your last Project?