3 Quick Steps to Capture Lessons Learned in Project Management

Shubhangi Pandey
By | Updated December 8, 2023 | 16 min read

Key Take Aways

  • Lessons learned refers to the documented experiences of a project, both positive and negative.
  • The principal goal of lessons learned is to improve project outcomes by identifying opportunities for improvement or the wider adoption of successful practices.
  • The three quick steps to capture lessons learned are:
    1. Identify the lessons learned.
    2. Document the lessons learned.
    3. Analyze the lessons learned.
  • How to apply lessons learned to project management templates in Microsoft 365

 

The article also highlights the importance of documenting lessons learned at any stage during the project, including the start of the project, project phases, and project closure.

One of the defining characteristics of a project is that it ends. It is planned, executed, tracked, and closed – hopefully delivering the benefits promised immediately!

But projects are complicated. The unexpected will happen during a project. Things will go wrong.

So when a project is completed successfully, there is certainly reason to celebrate – but not before you close the project properly!

Busy project managers tend to move quickly from one project to another. If you’re one of them, consider streamlining your project portfolio management with our project management templates for Microsoft 365 and the Power Platform.

Why are Lessons Learned Important?

Lessons learned are the documented experiences of a project, encompassing both triumphs and setbacks. They serve as a vital resource for refining project outcomes by pinpointing areas for enhancement and scaling up effective practices.

Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of past projects equips teams to refine their strategies for upcoming endeavors.

Integral to Organizational Process Assets

These insights are crucial to organizational process assets, including the plans, processes, procedures, and knowledge bases that bolster project execution.

This documentation also highlights the necessary skills, experiences, and behaviors for team success, aiding PMO leaders in crafting focused training and development programs.

Strategic Timing for Documentation

Capturing lessons learned isn’t restricted to the project’s conclusion – it can be integrated at various stages:

  • At Project Inception: Reviewing prior projects and gaining insights from experienced teammates lays a solid foundation.
  • During Project Phases: Each phase presents an opportunity to document learnings and strategize adjustments before progressing.
  • At Project Closure: Reflecting on the entire project at this stage offers a comprehensive journey overview.

 

Enhancing Project Outputs Through Continuous Learning

This paper shows how regularly documenting lessons learned enhances project deliverables. It’s more effective to record observations as they occur rather than retrospectively at project completion. Integrating a lessons-learned intake form on your project site can facilitate ongoing feedback during the project lifecycle.

Maximizing the Impact of Lessons Learned

The actual value of lessons learned lies in their application. Centralizing these insights in an accessible repository or register ensures that all teams can benefit from this collective wisdom.

Central storage allows PMO leaders to analyze historical data, pinpoint recurring patterns, and foster innovative process improvements.

Having understood the significance of lessons learned, let’s explore the practical application of this process within a project site in Power Apps.

3 Quick Steps to Capture Lessons Learned with Microsoft 365

Capturing lessons learned is crucial in refining and enhancing project management practices. Microsoft 365 offers an organized and efficient approach to gathering, analyzing, and applying the insights gained from past projects.

Let’s explore three straightforward steps to help you use Microsoft 365 and Power Platform project management to capture valuable lessons and integrate them into your future project planning and execution.

1. Close the Project Site

Correctly concluding a project involves more than completing tasks; it includes closing the project site in Power Apps. This step is critical to ensure accurate project reporting and clarity in portfolio dashboards.

If left open, the project site may continue to generate data, potentially leading to confusion or misinterpretation in ongoing reports.

However, it’s essential to approach the closure with foresight. Rather than hastily archiving or hiding the site, consider keeping it available for a period. This approach allows project managers and team members to revisit the site for valuable insights and data that can inform the planning and execution of future projects.

The site can be a resource for best practices, lessons learned, and successful templates. It is a valuable asset in continuously improving project management processes.

Therefore, thoughtful management of the project site’s closure in Power Apps can significantly contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of subsequent projects.

2. Capture Lessons Learned

Capturing lessons learned is integral to the project’s growth and development. Conducting lessons-learned sessions at crucial project milestones and closures provides an opportunity to reflect, learn, and apply valuable insights for future endeavors.

What went well and what can we learn from that?

This question focuses on the successes of the project. Identifying these positive aspects boosts team morale and helps replicate these successes in future projects.

Recognizing effective strategies, techniques, or team dynamics contributing to the project’s success is crucial for establishing a framework of best practices.

What didn’t go so well and what can we learn from that?

Conversely, this question delves into the challenges faced during the project.

Understanding the root causes of setbacks or inefficiencies is essential for continuous improvement. This introspection helps avoid similar pitfalls in future projects and refine processes and strategies.

What should we do to improve our next project?

This forward-looking question encourages a proactive approach to future projects. It’s about translating insights from successes and challenges into actionable strategies for upcoming ventures.

Participation from all project members is vital in these sessions to ensure that feedback and recommendations are comprehensive and encompass all project areas.

Methods of Collecting Feedback

  • Survey: Utilizing surveys is an efficient way to gather feedback from a large group. It allows team members to thoughtfully consider and articulate their views on the project, leading to a more thorough and reflective assessment.
  • Meeting: Meetings offer a platform for open, face-to-face discussions, enabling more dynamic and interactive feedback. They are especially compelling in smaller groups or when nuanced, complex topics must be unpacked collaboratively.
  • Meeting and Survey: Combining surveys with meetings can optimize the feedback process. The survey responses can guide the focus of the meeting discussions, ensuring that critical issues are addressed comprehensively.

 

3. Update Project Templates with BrightWork 365

Streamlining project management processes becomes straightforward with Microsoft 365, Power Platform and BrightWork 365. After project completion, assess the changes made to your project site. These insights are vital for enhancing future projects.

Use BrightWork 365 project management software to apply these lessons to your project templates. You can do this in two ways:

  • Use Content templates
  • Update and save new templates with Form Configurator

 

The distinctive features in BrightWork 365 Content Template and Form Configuration facilitate the swift and seamless integration of these updates into all new project sites. This efficient method ensures that each subsequent project benefits from the collective knowledge and experiences gained in previous endeavors, fostering consistency and continual improvement across your organizational projects.

Content Templates

BrightWork 365 gives you the option to create a special type of template from an existing project that will include the content from that project – these templates are called Content Templates.

The content copied over to the template will include content from the tabs Stages, Deliverables, Tasks, Issues, Risks, and Project Settings. This is a great way to give your project colleagues a head start creating projects using best practice templates from other similar projects.

Form Configurator

The Form Configurator tool provides Template Editors with the ability to hide or show Project Template Form Tabs, Sections, and Columns with point and click ease.

The Form Configurator allows users to adjust the amount of process in projects, and to better focus on the most relevant project elements. You can think of it as a map of the form that is behind the template.

Project management on Microsoft 365

Watch a demo of BrightWork 365 project and portfolio management templates for Microsoft 365, Power Platform, and Teams.

How to Create a Lessons Learned Survey

Creating a comprehensive Lessons Learned Survey can provide valuable insights into your project’s successes and areas for improvement. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Project Overview:

To obtain a clear understanding of the project’s initial parameters and outcomes, consider expanding your questions to include:

  • How did the initial goals and objectives evolve during the project?
  • Were there any significant changes to the success criteria during the project?
  • How closely did the outcome match the initial project vision and scope?
  • What factors influenced any deviations from the original expectations?

 

Project Highlight:

Delving deeper into specific project successes can provide replicable strategies for future endeavors:

  • What unexpected successes did the project experience?
  • Which project management tools or techniques yielded the best results?
  • How did team collaboration contribute to the project’s accomplishments?
  • Were there any innovative solutions or strategies that proved particularly effective?

 

Project Challenges:

Understanding the difficulties faced is crucial for future project enhancements:

  • Were there any recurring obstacles or issues that impacted project progress?
  • How did communication practices affect project challenges?
  • Which risk management strategies were less effective than anticipated?
  • In what ways did project constraints (time, budget, resources) impact the project’s trajectory?
  • What lessons can be learned from the team’s response to these challenges?

 

Additional Comments:

Encourage team members to provide open-ended feedback:

  • Are there any other insights or observations that need to be covered but could benefit future projects?
  • Do team members have suggestions for improving team dynamics or morale in future projects?

 

Once your survey is set up, allow adequate time for your team to reflect and provide thoughtful and detailed responses.

This ensures more accurate feedback and demonstrates that their input is valued and crucial for organizational growth and learning.

How Do You  Run a Learned Survey Session?

Although it takes a little more work, running a session to gather lessons learned from your team will generate better insights than relying solely on a survey. A meeting provides an opportunity to dig into the causes and implications of project successes and failures from different perspectives.

Remember – these sessions aim to learn from the team’s collective experience, not assign blame for mistakes or negative experiences. Your team should understand the purpose of the session, especially as it relates to professional development, and feel comfortable with providing feedback.

Consider using our Office 365 management software to streamline the process and enhance collaboration to manage sessions like these efficiently.

Preparing for the Learned Survey Session

Preparing for the session is vital in ensuring its effectiveness and efficiency. The goal is to create an environment conducive to open discussion, reflection, and learning. Here are some comprehensive strategies to help you facilitate a successful lessons-learned meeting:

  1. Start with a recap of the project’s goals and objectives. Begin by revisiting the initial aims and objectives of the previous project to provide context for the discussion.
  2. Compare the desired results with the final deliverables. Evaluate whether the goals of the project requirements were achieved and assess the client or stakeholder’s satisfaction with the outcome.
  3. Review each project stage regarding successes, mistakes, outputs, and learnings. Discuss the highs and lows of each project phase, evaluating the effectiveness of resource allocation and the team’s capabilities.
  4. Look at the project processes and plans. Assess whether the team adhered to the agreed project workflow and procedure, the project site’s usability, the project plan’s utility, and the effectiveness of team communication and collaboration.
  5. Assess Team Dynamics and Interpersonal Relationships. Reflect on how team members interacted and collaborated, identifying strengths in relationships and areas for improvement in team dynamics.
  6. Evaluate the Use of Project Management Tools and Techniques. Discuss the effectiveness of project management tools and techniques, determining their impact on project outcomes and team efficiency.

 

Effective Feedback Techniques

To maximize the value of your lessons learned session, employing diverse feedback techniques can yield comprehensive insights. Here are some enhanced strategies:

Round Robin:

Implement this inclusive approach where every participant provides their viewpoint on a specific topic, like communication. This ensures that all voices are heard, fostering a holistic understanding of the team’s experiences.

Brainwriting:

Encourage creativity and deeper thinking by having the entire project team write their ideas on a card. Collect these cards and discuss the suggestions randomly during the session, sparking dynamic conversations and diverse perspectives.

Stop, Start, Continue:

This method involves asking the team to critically analyze current practices by identifying processes that should be ceased (Stop), initiated (Start), or maintained (Continue), fostering continuous improvement in project management methodologies.

Fishbowl Discussion:

Arrange a small group in the center to discuss a topic while others observe. After the discussion, observers can add their insights, ensuring diverse input and deeper analysis.

Plus-Delta Feedback:

Focus on what worked well (Plus) and what needs to change (Delta). This approach helps categorize feedback effectively, making it easier to take action.

Finalizing and Sharing Lessons Learned

After gathering comprehensive real-time feedback and key metrics through these methods, it’s crucial to distill and apply these insights:

Collate and Analyze Feedback:

Systematically review all feedback, categorizing them for clarity and identifying recurring themes. This will help pinpoint specific areas for improvement or replication in future projects.

Develop Actionable Strategies:

Convert feedback into actionable strategies. For instance, if communication barriers were identified, consider incorporating more frequent and structured team meetings or adopting new collaborative tools in future projects. These detailed lessons are imperatives for growth.

Share with the Team and Organization:

Present a detailed report of the compiled lessons to the team for validation and final input. Once confirmed, disseminate these lessons across the organization. This reinforces a company culture that enhances the collective knowledge base, improving project management practices.

Incorporate in Organizational Knowledge Base:

Ensure these lessons are accessible by including them in your organization’s knowledge management system, like an internal wiki or shared drive of project documentation. Research shows that this facilitates learning and application by any future project team, enhancing the overall project management process.

The Invaluable Importance of Lessons Learned

Effective project management hinges on the strategic application of lessons learned. This approach refines current processes and sets a precedent for future successes.

Using tools like Microsoft 365, Power Platform, and BrightWork 365 integrations, teams can efficiently organize and share insights, enhancing collaboration and communication regularly.

Incorporating varied feedback methods such as Round Robin, brainwriting, and Stop, Start, and Continue approaches ensures comprehensive project analysis. This practice addresses immediate project challenges and fosters a culture of continuous improvement and proactive problem-solving.

Project managers and teams build a robust foundation for ongoing development by embedding these lessons into organizational practices. This commitment to reflective learning and knowledge sharing is vital to achieving more effective and successful project outcomes.

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness

Project management on Microsoft 365

Watch a demo of BrightWork 365 project and portfolio management templates for Microsoft 365, Power Platform, and Teams.

Shubhangi Pandey
Shubhangi Pandey

BrightWork Content Marketer

Shubhangi is a product marketing enthusiast, who enjoys testing and sharing the BrightWork 365 project portfolio management solution capabilities with Microsoft 365 users. You can see her take on the experience of the template-driven BrightWork 365 solution, its unique project management success approach, and other personalized services across the site and social channels. Beyond BrightWork, Shubhangi loves to hunt for the newest Chai Latte-serving café, where she can read and write for hours.

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