How to Create a Lessons Learned Process for Your Projects [+Template]
When I was little, my parents got me in the habit of writing every day in a personal journal to keep track of behaviors to help me reflect and grow.
Journals are a great way to record life experiences and learn from them. In a work environment, and especially for projects, Lessons Learned work the same way.
What is Lessons Learned?
Lessons Learned is the habit of documenting the positive and negative experiences of a project.
They provide an excellent opportunity for organizations and project managers to learn from the actual experiences of others.
It is essential to define a Lessons Learned process and build governance around it so that costly mistakes are not repeated and to encourage positive behaviors.
How do you record Lessons Learned?
Lessons Learned should cover three areas:
- What worked well
- What needs to be improved
- What new things need to start.
Many teams do Lessons Learned in the wrong way by capturing mistakes and targeting individuals.
Obtaining what went wrong is just 30% of recording Lessons Learned.
The rest of the story is around identifying good behaviors and encouraging teams to repeat it as well as identifying new things to try.
How to create a Lessons Learned Process
Every organization should define and adopt a Lessons Learned Process.
At BrightWork, we hope our customers to define their process in two phases:
- Establishing an Organizational Lessons Learned Repository.
- Every Project’s Lessons Learned Process.
Establishing a Lessons Learned Repository
Lessons Learned classification is crucial in the repository to retrieve and consume in later projects.
Classification can include:
- Scope/Requirements Management
- Schedule Management
- Budgets Management
- Quality Management
- Issues & Risks Management
- Resources & Vendors Management
- Reports Management.
Within each category, we allowed teams to register things that went right or wrong, and list any new things to try.
What is included in a Lessons Learned Repository?
The Organizational Lessons Learned Repository should include two sections.
- Main Repository
- Issues-Risks-Defects resolutions tracker.
Creating a Lessons Learned Process for all Projects
A simple process should be defined and adopted for recording Lessons Learned for every project.
The purpose of a process is to determine the routine and adopt them throughout your project team.
Our process includes four simple steps:
- Link to organizational Repository
- Identify & log
- Analyze & classify
- Monitoring and governance.
We recommend that Lessons Learned should happen throughout the project. You should log an experience during meetings or immediately when you find it.
Often, people forget things by the end of the phase or project.
Lessons Learned should not be a ceremonial meeting at the end of the project to check a box.
Projects will be archived after they are completed which could ultimately result in organizations finding it hard to locate and take advantage of decentralized and project-specific Lessons Learned repositories.
To address this problem, we at BrightWork recommend establishing central organizational-level Lessons Learned Repository.
Our Customer Success Architects (CSAs) can develop workflows that can link project level Lessons Learned to the central Repository.
The next step is to identify and log comments and recommendations that could be valuable for future projects.
Classification and Analyzation are crucial for Lessons Learned retrieval in future projects. Whoever is logging should apply upmost care to avoid the ‘garbage-in-garbage-out’ mistake.
We include governance at the end of the Phase-Gate review to make sure project teams are making efforts in logging correct lessons. We have also added cleaning and maintaining activity to maintain high-quality data.
Aditya holds a Master’s in Computers, an Advanced Project Management Certificate from Stanford University, and management certifications such as PMP, Scrum Master, ITIL, and Prince2 Practioner.
He has been a corporate Project Management Coach for several Fortune-500 companies, the US Army, and the US Navy since 2007.