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Thursday, 15 April 2010 14:10

The Value of Lessons-Learned

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The value of lessons-learned sharing and communication can be the difference between total project success and missing key milestones and project delay.

A large number of Project Managers operate in an industry where the projects they manage will have similar components and attributes as previously managed projects. When managing a team of Project Managers who work on similar and ongoing projects, the value of lessons-learned documentation and communication should be evident, although polls would probably show this discipline is limited in practice. Especially in large organizations, lessons and related case study work play a significant role in retention of historical knowledge and serve to bridge across generations especially as many older employees retire. The need to leverage the experience gained (both successful and less than successful) has never been more important. People move on, they find new positions or new careers. When a person who has put thousands of hours into a project moves on, and there is no lessons-learned documentation or previous communication, what happens to the knowledge gained by that person on the thousands of hours they put into the project work?

The lessons learned have to be saved in a central location, so it could be of value in the future.
Lessons learned are usually conducted at completion of the project. A lessons-learned weekly or bi-weekly meeting is another great tool for sharing information on how obstacles were overcome, and what could be done better on the next phase or next project. Another alternative is documenting within a case study, a narrative description of actual events which provides the opportunity to think through the choices faced by the decision maker(s) and enables a paradigm shift or new way of viewing approaches to solving problems. Therefore, although the exact project with all its attributes may not be repeated, the lessons-learned documentation and communication may well save the next project.

Lessons learned should be updated in the lessons-learned documentation. It is critical for the Project Managers to understand in this process, that the knowledge is being catalogued for both immediate and long-term usage. They must understand that as individual leaders themselves, they are charged with leaving a legacy of their knowledge to future leaders. This is of course, in addition to having the work-arounds at their fingertips for both their own future use as well as their current colleagues. Since Project Managers who work on similar projects will run into similar obstacles, it is imperative that they share how they overcame these obstacles. It will ensure the same mistakes are not repeated at the cost of project delay, budget overruns and customer dissatisfaction.

Organizations need to encourage to document specific major operational lessons learned in such a way that the lessons learned can serve as a source to facilitate training for the next generation of workers. The importance of timely preparation and submission of high quality lessons learned and case studies, becomes a source of information for creation, submission, archival, and identification of best practices for broad discovery of the material once made available for use.

Developing and Sharing Case Studies as a Key Component of Knowledge Sharing: Harold M. Bell, PMP, Project management challenge seventh annual NASA PM challenge - February 9, 2010
Learn the Value of Lessons-Learned: Scott Seningen-PMP



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