In project management, things rarely go according to plan. There are schedule hiccups, process problems, personnel problems… the list can be endless. But like good cogs in the machine, no matter what the problem we push our piece of the project forward to the best of our ability. In these types of situations, have you ever pondered if a similar incident had occurred in a previous project in your organization? Worse yet, you talk to other coworkers who have worked other projects and find this exact issue has occurred before and it happened again! How does this happen?
If “hindsight is 20/20,” how is it those of us in project management let the same ineffective, unproductive and unsuccessful things occur more than once especially if it has previously occurred and we can control it? As our organizations take on other projects, and we move on to others, we have a habit of relearning the same lessons over and over. Each time we relearn the same bad incident, it can cost money, schedule, and even possibly worse a hit to our reputation.
Why are we collectively so resistant to taking a pause and capturing lessons learned?
-We do not like looking at our own dysfunctions. Self-criticism is difficult.
-Many organizations lack a culture and do not realize the value of capturing lessons learned. Why should I take valuable time and capture this incident if it is over?
How can we improve the lessons learned process?
-When capturing lessons learned, do not just concentrate on the things that went wrong. Lessons learned can be positive as well.
-Realize blaming other people/organizations may be futile. We can only effectively control ourselves. What could we have done better to prevent the issue? “When you point a finger at someone, four fingers are pointing back at you.”
-Identify a process in sharing lessons learned for the entire organization. It will do not good if you spend the time capturing lessons learned but never getting them out for others to review.
-Identify times to capture lessons learned. At major milestones or certain time intervals during a project may work for your team.