Friday, April 6, 2012

How do you SHARE your lessons learned?

We are just finishing up the online study of 'The Lazy Project Manager' through the Project Management Book Club. One of the discussion questions late in the study is about sharing lessons learned. Although the question generated some interesting responses, I didn't really come away with a clear understanding of how to do this, just theories.

Capturing lessons learned is a best practice for project management. Some do it, some don't. For those that do capture lessons learned, the primary reason for doing so is to improve--to learn from the past so you can improve in the future. And the way you improve is to reference the lessons learned during future project so that you can learn from the mistakes or challenges that previous project teams experienced. You could argue that a PMO could also use lessons learned to improve templates and processes as well.

But what good is capturing lessons learned if you do not have a good way to SHARE your lessons leanred? What good is capturing lessons learned if future project teams do not have a way to access the information?

So let's talk about it.

What does your company do to capture and share your lessons learned? When you start a new project, how do you retrieve lessons learned from previous projects. How? Do you look for internal lessons learned or external lessons learned (or both)? How do you incorporate the lessons learned from previous projects into your own projects?


  1. It is easy to identify personnal lessons learned that improve your own maturity. Though, it is difficult to identify those which really bring value to the organization. What would be the best process to validate lessons learned for the organization?
    It is frustating to discover that your own lessons learned may not be valid for the organization. This is not a good incentice to share your own experience with others.

    1. You raise a good point. I have for years captured my own lessons learned and then use them to improve how I manage projects. For example, I have a standard template I use for charters, project plans, budget tracking, so on and so forth. After each project I make minor tweaks to my templates to accomodate things that I learned during the previous project. As a result, I continuously improve. But to your point, how do you extend that learning to the larger organization? Does the organization even care?

  2. We can have Webtools/Databases to support communicating lessons learned in big global companies. Which process can we employ to validate these lessons in a environment like that? Maybe using Dephi techniques, or other forms of group validation techniques.

  3. There has been a great debate on linkedin on this very important topic. It has over 100 contributiosn and can be found at:

    Well worth a read!

    Ron Rosenhead

  4. It is useful to create a corporate "incubator" for accumulating and categorizing personal knowledge and experience of project managers and team members. Each one should have access to there and then consider whether information requested is personally useful, regarding the author of experience and other circumstances.

  5. I have been capturing LL's from the day I started my role as a PM. It is sad to say that I know of only one other person within my organisation that captures them as well.

    I store them all on Sharepoint, yet nobody pays attention - a case of Management refusing to listen to the person on the ground.

    We have 90+ PM's.

    So frustrating.

  6. A few years back I gathered the results from a series of lessons learned post-mortem meetings and the meetings were full of seasoned professionals, assisted with a facilitator. Without going into gory detail, the lessons learned were full of blatantly obvious items that no project manager would allow to happen on their project - yet it happened, over and over. These were PM's from a large multi-national EPC - with one of the largest clients in the E&P world. In a group of nearly fifty PM's, I was the only PMP - and I came in at the end of the project to handle a variety of quality management issues. The lessons learned were useless, because no one would have done what they identified as lessons to be learned. Maybe the best lessons learned is have qualified people on board, not just company sanctioned managers.

  7. Hi Everyone, like your topic... For me PM Lessons learned is broken (ie it isnt doing what it is suppose to do). I have a blog on the topic, trying to find some answers. Please have a look and provide some feedback :)

  8. I've found that capturing LL's hasn't been the issue but instead effectively applying them to future projects. Nearly every program at my company captures LL's as they go and relates them to risks so they can be more easily associated with time and financial impacts on future programs. There are several issues though - 1.) Now that there is a great database of information, how do you effectively relate past LL's to current projects? I am in an R&D environment where no two jobs are the same. They may be similar, but only somewhat in most cases. And 2), How do you effectively build in the LL's when quoting or planning a new program? Many cases can be pretty subjective so a lot of trial and error. Some of these issues have been overcome by having an LL review as part of a new program kickoff, not just a post-mortem on previous jobs. This forces the team to collectively review the past LL's and agree on how and where to apply them, building those decisions into the new program's plan and objectives.


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