Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

Documenting Lessons Learned: What Have You Learned?

~ By Kenneth Darter

Woman thinking and the words what have you learned?

Being able to document lessons learned after a project is complete (or even in the middle of it) is one of the biggest responsibilities a project manager has on a project. If one does not understand the mistakes of past projects, then one is doomed to repeat them over and over. In this role, the project manager becomes part historian and part archivist. Lessons learned are not just useful in the business world; they can be helpful on any project in which one is involved - at home or in your volunteer work or in your own personal hobbies. Lessons learned can make all the difference on future projects and help them to succeed, but first, they must be documented correctly.

The Good and the Bad

Lessons learned should not just focus on the mistakes that were made; they should also document the good things that happened in the project. Otherwise, all of the processes and decisions that helped the project succeed might be lost and that would be just as bad as forgetting about the mistakes that were made. Oftentimes, everyone focuses on the mistakes that were made, and, while that is important, the project team needs to recognise what worked and make sure that those processes and techniques can be repeated in future projects.

In the Moment

The best place and time to capture lessons learned is in the moment that the project is happening. Even though people may be busy and overwhelmed just working on the project, someone should be working to capture those items that might turn into lessons learned at the end of the project. The best time to get these items documented is right after they have happened. Otherwise, people tend to forget about what they did or even gloss over the problems and issues that occurred. They might even start telling tall tales about what happened; lessons learned need to be a truthful reflection, not a fish story.

Solicit Data

This is primarily the project manager’s responsibility, but everybody on the project should be aware that they can provide ideas and insight into the lessons learned. This truly needs to be a collaborative effort in order to succeed. Recording lessons learned should be a regular part of project management and needs to be included in the weekly and monthly processes. Once people on the team get used to providing this input, the project manager may get overwhelmed with the response. While the paperwork might get tedious, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Publish or Preserve

Once all of the information is collected and reviewed and revised, then it is important to make sure that it is published so that everyone involved in the project is aware of the lessons learned, both positive and negative. It is also vital that this information be preserved so that the organisation and the project teams can have it the next time a similar project is being executed. Without the lessons learned from previous projects, future projects will fall into the same routines and pitfalls that occurred in previous projects.


Comments (1)

Topic: Documenting Lessons Learned: What Have You Learned?
5/5 (1)
Gravatar
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
4th May 2015 10:40pm
Sashieka Stevens (Jamaica) says...
Very good presentation, at times we forget the importance of documentation while doing projects and then we fall in the same trap over and over again. This presentation has broaden my understanding of documenting the good and the bad in doing any project.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Is it true or false that green is a number?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Extreme Project Management

The running back dives for the first down with the defender on his back

Three war room strategies to try when you need to bring life back to a dead project, or save an engagement that is on the brink of disaster.

Project Plans: 10 Essential Elements

Four colourful tags spelling the word plan

A project plan is more than just a Gantt chart, but do you know what you must have in your plan? This article takes you through the ten essential elements.

How to Become a Project Manager

Senior lecturer in front of his class

If you're new to project management don't be bamboozled by all the jargon. This article sets out the skills needed to become a competent project manager.

Agile Through the Waterfall

Agile and waterfall tag cloud

Many organisations have adopted Agile practices into their development methodologies and they have proved to be successful for the organisation as a whole.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Steve commented on…
Work Breakdown Structure 101
- Sun 26 February 4:45pm

Aimee Windmiller-Wood commented on…
Top 10 Qualities of a Project Manager
- Thu 23 February 5:06am

Liam commented on…
High Anxiety: Managing Projects With Your Pants Down
- Fri 17 February 9:27pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Any good recruitment agency for contract PM work? https://t.co/qMY7Vy0GSV #projectsmart #pmot about 4 hours ago

General Project Management • How do you track who from your human resources have related skills… https://t.co/eGOIRfqAD3 #projectsmart #pmot about 4 hours ago

Six Time Management Tips for Project Managers - Infographic https://t.co/GUNvcEohK7 #projectsmart #pm #pmot about 1 day ago