Lessons Learned and Project Management

Posted: February 20, 2009 in Project Management
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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?

Comments
  1. Alex Adkins says:

    MB-
    I like your blog. It is instructive to me as a person wanting to learn more about PM. Do you have suggestions for keeping organized during all phases of a project? I’ve worked mainly in non-profits, where we couldn’t afford PM software. I used excel, outlook, and lots of folders. But this was not always the most efficient way to keep track of the work or resources. Thanks!

    best,
    alex

  2. Varun Poddar says:

    Hey Alex – just came across this article and your comment struck a chord, so thought I’d chime in. I’ve worked with a few friends in non-profits – the level of info flowing around (a lot of it very sensitive n complex that too) came as a surprise to me initially. All that combined with a lack of software or essentially just proper procedures can cause inefficiency.

    I suggest using a simple dashboard (essentially a network diagram on steroids) which can be updated using any drawing tool, even Open Office if MS Office is not available. It helps keep track of processes, milestones, etc. on one single page without having to deal with fancy project planning software (you can check out a template at http://www.poddarco.com/templates. There are other quick wins as well, but probably not easy to address in the space of this comment. Feel free to reach out via email if you want to discuss.

  3. Good point for refletion. As company moves for more knowledge at the human capital level, that mean the people making all the diference to get good things right and face all challenges, the good habit of taking notes of lessons learned is indeed a powerfull edge. You might be happy to spend the time every week, or at end of every day, taking notes of all the things you did right, and all the things that needs improvement.
    In a project, from time to time, or from phase to phase, it is a best practice to make note all relevante lessons learned and at the end of the project, schedule a lessons learned meeting with the prokect team or key stakeholders, in order to review the good, the bad and the areas for improvements, then consolidating the Consolidated Lessons Learned Report. If you need to discuss more, please write me in pvt.

    Regards,

    Eduardo Fernandes

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