3 Quick Steps to Capture Lessons Learned
One of the defining characteristics of a project is that it ends. It is planned, executed, tracked, and closed – hopefully delivering on the benefits promised at the outset!
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But projects are difficult. 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 down the project properly!
Busy project managers tend to move quickly from one project to another.
However, making time to reflect on the project that just happened with your team and stakeholders will improve the project you are about to start.
Here are three quick steps to close a project effectively to capture lessons learned and continuously evolve your project management practices using SharePoint On-Premises.
Let’s start with the role of lessons learned in project management.
Why are Lessons Learned Important?
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.
By understanding what dand did not work on a project, teams can adjust their processes and approaches on future projects.
Lessons learned are part of organizational process assets – the plans, processes, procedures, and knowledge bases used to support project delivery.
Lessons learned also provide valuable insight into the skills, experiences, and behaviors needed by teams to succeed, helping PMO leads to plan training and continuous development programs.
Documenting lessons learned can take place at any stage during your project, including:
- The start of the project. Reviewing past projects and learning from teammates who have worked on similar projects ensures a strong start.
- Project phases. If your project has defined phases, make time to document learnings and identify adjustments before moving into a new stage.
- Project closure: This is a good time to reflect on the project as a complete body of work.
Collecting lessons learned throughout the project will improve the quality of these outputs. After all, it’s easier to document something that has just happened rather than waiting until the project is completed!
Adding a lessons learned intake form to your project site is an easy way to collect ideas from the team during project execution.
Lessons learned are only valuable if they are used! The outputs should be stored in a central repository or lessons learned register that is accessible to every team in your organization.
Storing lessons learned in a single place helps PMO leads to analyze historical performance, identify recurring problems or successes, and implement new processes.
Now that you’ve read about the importance of lessons learned, let’s see how to apply this process to a project site in SharePoint On-Premises.
3 Quick Steps to Capture Lessons Learned with SharePoint
1. Close the Project Site
Once the project is complete, it’s important to close the project site in SharePoint.
Otherwise, the project will continue to appear in reports and portfolio dashboards.
Don’t archive or hide the site just yet; it may be useful for planning upcoming projects!
2. Capture Lessons Learned
During the project, things will have gone well and some things will not have gone so well.
Run a lessons learned session at agreed points in the project and at project closure to answer three key questions:
- What went well and what can we learn from that?
- What didn’t go so well and what can we learn from that?
- What should we do to improve our next project?
All project participants should take part in the feedback process so the recommendations represent all areas of the project.
Depending on the location of your team, there are a few ways to collect feedback.
- Survey: A survey is a useful tool to get people thinking about the project and is easily shared with a large group.
- Meeting: This is a useful opportunity for the team to talk through project experiences. Depending on the size of the team, you may need to run multiple sessions with different groups.
- Meeting and Survey: Use the answers from the survey to shape your meeting.
How to Create a Lessons Learned Survey in SharePoint
Use the Project Survey App, found in Site Contents, in SharePoint to collect and analyze feedback from your team.
Start by figuring out what questions you need to ask about your project.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
- What were the original goals and objectives of the project?
- What were the original criteria for project success?
- Was the project completed according to the original expectation?
- What were the major accomplishments?
- What methods worked well?
- What was found to be particularly useful for accomplishing the project?
- What elements of the project went wrong?
- What specific processes need improvement?
- How can these processes be improved in the future?
- Additional comments.
Once you have created your survey, give your team a bit of time to provide thoughtful responses.
How to 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 really dig into the causes and implications of successes and failures from different perspectives.
Remember – the goal of these sessions is to learn from the collective experience of the team, not assign blame for mistakes.
Your team should understand the purpose of the session, especially as it relates to professional development, and feel comfortable with providing feedback.
Here are a few tips to help you run a successful meeting.
- Start with a recap of the project’s goals and objectives.
- Compare the desired results with the final deliverables. Did you achieve your goals? Were all project requirements delivered? Is the client or stakeholder satisfied with the project outcome?
- Review each stage of the project in terms of successes, mistakes, outputs, and learnings. Consider if resource allocation and team capabilities were adequate for each stage of work.
- Look at the project processes and plans. Did the team follow the agreed workflows and procedures? Was the project site easy to use and update? Was the project plan useful to the team? Did the team communicate and collaborate together?
Try these techniques to gather information from the group:
- Round Robin: Working around the room, ask everyone for their input on a topic, for example, communication.
- Brainwriting: Everyone writes one idea on a card. A selection of cards is gathered and discussed randomly at various points during the session.
- Stop, Start, Continue: Ask the team to identify what processes should stop, start, or continue.
Once you have collated these inputs, review the feedback and suggestions to find actionable inputs to your next project; for example, if communication was a roadblock, you may want to include more regular team meetings on future projects.
Share these lessons learned with the team for sign-off, and with the wider company to contribute to your organization’s project management practices.
3. Update Project Templates with BrightWork Template Design Sync
As mentioned earlier, organizations often don’t implement lessons learned.
Updating processes, changing established ways of working, rolling out new systems – it takes time.
With SharePoint, applying lessons learned to current and future projects is quite easy.
You’ve likely modified the project site during project execution.
Review those changes and apply them to the project template you use to make new project sites.
This is a practical and efficient way to improve and mature the way you carry out project management.
BrightWork Template Design Sync simplifies this process even further. With just a few clicks, apply changes to a template to any live site currently using that template or roll out changes on a case-by-case basis.
Consistently collecting and applying lessons learned allows organizations to implement mature processes and gives teams the guidance they need to develop their skills.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness
In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.