Even with today’s wealth of project management information, expertise, systems and best practices, the failure rate of projects remains alarmingly high. Poor planning and stakeholder engagement, scope creep and lack of senior support are all reasons why a project can fail. Regardless of the size and complexity of a project, learning from previous lessons can significantly increase the chances of project delivery success.
There are many benefits with creating, managing and efficiently utilising a formal Lessons Learned system including:
- Helps prevent similar project pitfalls which have previously occurred.
- Minimises the cost, time and quality impacts with managing issues and performing re-work.
- Assists with improving post-implementation support for the delivered products.
- Helps identify risks which potentially may have been overlooked.
- More efficient planning leads to more realistic and achievable schedules.
- Develops stronger relationships with customers and suppliers.
- Provides delivery teams with great feedback which can be used for future engagements.
- Creates a pool of knowledge and a shared learning environment.
It’s essential that lessons are captured throughout the entire life of the project and not just at the end where the focus may have already turned to forthcoming projects. Lessons need to be captured, for example, following resolution of issues, at team meetings and milestone points. Project health checks and independent reviews can also be a great way to identify lessons.
There are many templates available to capture lessons, for example, the PRINCE2 Lessons Log. A Lessons Log (or similar document) needs to be a simple, easy-to-use and easily accessible document which captures information such as the Lesson Detail, Date Logged, Lesson Category, Author and Recommendations.
Many organisations have processes to capture project lessons however they may not be realising the true-value these lessons can provide. Documenting lessons is only useful if they are proactively reviewed and relevant lessons applied to current and future projects.
The following are general tips to improve the value of Lessons Learned:
- To identify lessons, start by asking three simple questions.
- What went well?
- What did not go well?
- What could we do better next time?
- Use a centralised, easily manageable and accessible system such as SharePoint or Wikis.
- Ensure the process for collecting, documenting, retrieving and reviewing lessons is simple, easy-to-use, well-defined and consistent.
- Define the roles and responsibilities for managing the organisation and/or team’s consolidated Lessons Repository as well as for capturing lessons within each individual project.
- Make it mandatory to review the Lessons Repository as part of a project’s planning phase.
- Categorise lessons (eg: Procurement, Process, Quality) for easier review and retrieval.
- At the end of the project, review the risk register to identify any risk-related lessons.
Finally, here is a link from the Gold Coast Rapid Transport website which provides an overview of the lessons learned, both good and not so good, captured by their project team.