Learning something useful from unpleasant, as well as pleasant, experience ranges from being an instinctive reaction that you can see in children to being a scientific approach that professionals use in managing their work. Learning from experience is proved beneficial in project management and is now considered a must-use in managing projects according to the best practices of project management. PMBOK goes to the extent of considering the project not closed if lessons learned are not documented and communicated to stakeholders.
According to the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide) Lessons Learned are defined as the learning gained from the process of performing a project. Not only are they identified and distributed to stakeholders at the end of project, but also during the entire project lifecycle and at the end of each phase. This helps improve future phases of the current project as well as future projects coming down the road.
Lessons learned are important input and output of any project. They are part of the organization assets a project manager should use to help him manage his project successfully. If you think of lessons learned as identifying what went right and what went wrong in your project, you will see them take various forms; they could be the ground rules you set to manage your team, or techniques proved effective in resolving conflicts, or recognition events that were useful, or procedures followed in managing virtual teams as well as team building activities.
Lessons learned could take the form of suppliers’ and team members’ performance history that can be used to select the best fit to do the tasks in future projects. Risks and their effective responses are important forms of lessons learned. You can learn a lesson by saving your Microsoft Project plan as Template for future use.
As a project manager embarking upon a new project, imagine that you have been handed all the preceding precious information on a plate from previous projects, how likely will you succeed in your new project than if you do not have these lessons in your hands? How grateful will you be to those project managers who gathered and documented such information? And how strong will your belief be in such a PM Methodology that imposes identifying, storing, and disseminating lessons learned in any project managed under its umbrella?