Lessons Learned Example in Project Management

Lessons Learned Example in Project Management

Lessons Learned is a popular concept in modern project management practices. They refer to the careful analysis and isolation of the actions and situations we go through during product development.

The Project Manager role manages the Lessons Learned. The entire Project Team participates by sharing important information. They are most often performed during the project closure phase. Reference: “Closing projects in Agile project management” (BVOP.org), https://bvop.org/learn/pmclosingprojects/

We present you an example of how to implement this practice in your projects and organization

Example of integration of Lessons Learned in our project

To impose Lessons Learned practice in our teams and organization we can approach in the following example.

We start with the greeting of the team. Then, we explain the purpose of the Lessons Learned Log, namely – during the Learned Lessons meeting, everyone to share their point of view on what they thought about the project, what they would change, what they learned, and what could be done about it. -Good.

The process varies depending on the number of attendees.

When the meeting is held with the whole team, the team members gather ideas in small groups and then present the findings at the end of the meeting.

In a team with only a few attendees, the conclusions of all will be discussed without the need for a presentation.

Then the rules of the meeting are explained. Attendees need to understand that they are supposed to be constructive, whether they like the project or not. Everyone is asked to comment on the following issues:

  • What was done well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What did you learn?

Lessons learned in small and large teams

For a small team, Excel feedback is introduced. For a larger team, flipcharts or whiteboards are usually used, where team members write down their thoughts. Regardless of the tool, a structure of 3 columns is always used: column 1 = what went well, column 2 = what did not go well, and column 3 = training.
All team members as well as the Project Manager participate in the process. Reference: “The Project Manager and their responsibilities – how to become one”, https://wikipedia-lab.org/who-is-project-manager-responsibilities-and-how-to-become-a-project-manager/

If the meeting is held with the whole project team, ask one or two team representatives to present the results in summary form. They will review all the notes and talk about the most frequently mentioned moments: Many team members said they were dissatisfied with the way the product was trained. One day of training was not enough, so people mentioned that they did not feel well prepared for the project. Reference: “What is Project Management, definitions and practices”, (Agile Programming – ISSN 2652-5925, Vol 1, 2020), https://agileprogramming.org/what-is-project-management-definitions-and-practices/

Lessons Learned Log with a small team:

After the team members record their feedback on Excel, the writing is discussed and the meeting is closed. He thanked those present for their participation. The reason for the need for feedback is stated: “I will take into account your feedback to improve our future projects, especially when it comes to <specific criticism>”.

The log of lessons learned

The lesson log is a very important part of the learning process. The purpose of today’s meeting is to discuss the need for the Lessons Learned Log. During the meeting, everyone will be able to share their point of view on what they thought about the project, what they would change, what they learned, and what could be done better. Reference: “What is Project Management?”, 2019 STC Montreal, https://stc-montreal.org/what-is-project-management/

The lesson log focuses on identifying project success and project failures and includes recommendations for improving future project results. The lessons learned can also be used to reduce the planned duration of projects. It has been proven that reviewing management, regulatory, commercial, legal, and technical lessons can achieve a high monetary return. Also, organizations can use lessons learned databases to capture information about the project schedule, costs, and scope, in addition to using this knowledge to create estimates based on previous project costs.

Management supports the process of learning lessons

Management should support the process of learning lessons by asking everyone in the organization to follow the processes of lessons learned. But the project manager should facilitate the participation of the senior management in the lessons learning process. Reference: “The responsibilities of the Project Manager – definitions and practices”, (Phronesis 2019), https://phron.org/project-manager-responsibilities-definitions-and-practices/

Some organizations choose to complete the lessons learned from the post-project review. Post-project reviews cover project process knowledge that will be useful for future projects. Many development projects do not meet the schedule and budget, as well as the needs of the clients. Re-applying important lessons to prevent future mistakes is the main reason why organizations capture lessons learned.
To stay competitive, many organizations run several projects simultaneously while trying to improve processes simultaneously. One way to achieve continuous improvement is through learning from past projects.

Newell found that social media worked better than a database of lessons learned. It is important to capture both project successes and failures. Future projects can benefit by following lessons learned that have been successful and avoiding lessons that have failed.

More sample questions

Let’s analyze the following questions:

  • What did you think about the project?
  • What would you change?
  • What did you learn?
  • What could be done better?

And then it is advisable to open a productive discussion.

Keeping and analyzing lessons learned can reduce the risk of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The lessons to be captured and analyzed should be the key project experiences that have some common business relevance for future projects.

How to improve the teams and the project according to the lessons learned?

Regular training. When working on a new project, it is quite possible that our team does not have enough knowledge about some tasks and this can reduce the business value of our product. To avoid this, it is good to provide materials to our team with which they can prepare and have no gaps when performing their tasks. These trainings can be performed before the start of the project or during it as long as it does not burden them and does not interfere with the implementation of the tasks.

Communication

Communication between the teams. Since in the Waterfall model the tasks are performed one after the other, we can change a bit here, as the so-called senior employees (Team Leeds) organize a meeting once a week between programmers, designers, and QAs. For example, QAs and designers will be informed about what the programmers are working on, and also QAs can notice earlier errors and work on their quick removal. Reference: “Quality Management in Project Management and Agile practices”, https://scrumtime.org/quality-management-in-project-management-and-agile-practices/ (Scrum Time ISSN 2652-5445, 2020)

Additionally, if there are any ambiguities, they will be discussed at this meeting. Also, the meeting does not have to be very long, the idea is to be more flexible and to know at the moment what the other members of the team are working on.

Communication with the managers. In addition to communication between teams, communication with line managers is also important. It would be a good idea for each team member to have a 30-minute conversation with their manager at least once a week, so he or she can share what he or she is working on and whether there are any difficulties with the task or with any team member. In this way, the manager will have an idea of ​​what is happening and will be able to intervene in time.

Meetings of managers

Meeting with the other managers working on the project. This meeting does not have to be very long, the idea is for all managers to discuss where the product is and what each of them has worked on, also to evaluate the work of the team and discuss whether any changes should be made.

Communication with stakeholders. Our meeting with our clients should be once a month. For example, when we are ready with project planning, we can hold a meeting with our clients, show them our plan and get feedback from them. For example, if we have added features that the customer wanted at the beginning (with Waterfall the requirements are defined at the beginning, but they may not always be clear), but no longer wants them, we can quickly change the plan before starting. We can also have a meeting with them when we have a ready graphical interface, such a meeting would help us understand what the client thinks and if there are suggestions, then we can act quickly and change them.

Start task management using a blackboard. I think it would be quite useful if, like Scrum and Kanban, we add a task board. In this way, we will have an idea of ​​which task we have reached or we can also determine which tasks are urgent and which can wait in time.

The organization must help project managers

Eliminate manual processes. If we have processes that take too much time, we can either automate them or, if they are not so important, eliminate them. This way our team will not waste time and will be able to focus on its tasks.

Active and free participation of the team during the development. To seek opinion and feedback from the team, to feel free to express opinions and offer ideas that would improve the product and the work process itself.

Bonus for achieved goals and good performance. As an incentive for our employees, with good performance and performance of all tasks on time, to provide a bonus for a job well done. This way our employees will feel appreciated and satisfied with their work.

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. Every formal organization has a leader. Every informal organization has a leader. In small organizations, this can be the owner, in large corporations, there are many hierarchical levels and yet they are generally called – management.
    Although the project manager is a central figure in any organization, he may not have a strictly defined level in the hierarchy. But the work meets him and introduces him to many managers at different levels, so the project manager can choose where to start good practice for sharing “lessons learned”.
    And so there is a general concept of “tone at the top”. People who fall into the hierarchical category “at the top”, with their way of working, leadership, behavior, attitude, ethics set and create the general atmosphere in a work environment. Therefore, the project manager must be prepared to start with management.
    The idea for sharing can be the “personal project” of the project manager, which he initiates, assigns, plans, and implements. He may not form a team, but if he attracts supporters, it will certainly be easier. The idea of ​​sharing can start with those who are closest to the project manager as a hierarchy or with those “managers” with whom the project manager communicates freely. These will be his supporters (team). With them, he can discuss his presentation ideas for the different levels of the hierarchy. Of course, the purpose of sharing is to cover the whole organization, but sometimes the hierarchy does not allow “free” communication without an idea that has gone through several levels of discussion, perception, and approval. That is why we will include at least 2 types of presentation in the plan – “strictly official” and “working”. The difference will be in the way the ideas are presented.

    Planning:

    Team: no more than 5 people (4 teammates + project manager), or 3 (2 teammates + project manager). The team preferably has representatives of the following “types” of people: generator of ideas, artistic nature with good technical skills,

    Workshops – the objectives of the workshops will be:

    To gather information about the “positive experience”, the project manager may not have been able to describe everything that happened to the project manager (s);

    To prepare 2 presentations – the ready presentations to be watched and discussed what impression they leave in the viewers and to eliminate mistakes, if any. This discussion is the preliminary training/experience in presenting the idea of ​​”lessons learned”;

    To form the groups of leaders to be presented. Groups do not have to be many people, large formations are not preferable to create an atmosphere of “sharing”. And small groups of people are easier to gather, given that each participant is a leader with enough of their current responsibilities. During the compilation, managers from different levels will be elected, as the main part will be from one hierarchical level and there will be representatives at one level higher and one level lower. Thus, the dissemination will begin, even before the presentation is officially made at all levels.

    Presentations:

    After each presentation – the material presented can be improved and enriched.

    As the goal is “sharing”, the presentations will end with an exchange of experiences. The project manager will keep a “protocol”. Positive examples from different hierarchical levels will be inserted in the place of those already shown. Something old and something new – like continuity. This will also result in consolidation, the information processed by the managers at different levels differs in detail and this should be taken into account in the presentation. Thus, the “working” presentation will naturally get its final version for the “strictly official”. Thus, the successful solution of a problem with a laptop that has failed to work (quick replacement with a spare or a colleague on vacation) will be replaced by the successful retention of the chief marketing officer.

    The time must be within 35 presentations and another 10 minutes for sharing. Studies of “concentration” among people of different ages and activities have shown that up to 35 minutes, a person is truly committed to what is being said and actively listens with understanding.

    3-4 presentations, within 1 week for preparation and 1 week for presentation, and the project “lessons learned” can end with a memo for the next lessons learned from another project.

  2. During one project we all face many difficulties and challenges, we have many problems on a smaller or larger scale. It is in our hands to resist and fight for the good of our project, by protecting the interests and policies of our company, as well as those of the customer and suppliers, sponsors.

    I suggest that this be imposed as a kind of method, even an ideology that we will strive to follow because it is very important to learn from the difficulties. Because what else is the point? If we do not learn from our mistakes if we do not strive to be better, more adaptable, more creative, and profitable? Otherwise, any subsequent project would be doomed to the same mistakes, even failure.

    If we have managed to complete the task within the planned time, despite the undelivered production parts;
    If we have managed to unite the teams we work with;
    If we have persuaded an employee to stay instead of leaving;
    If we have built a strong relationship with the client – which is promising for our further business relationships;

    All this deserves our attention and a “pat” on the shoulder. If we manage to extract the methods and techniques that have helped us, we will be much more successful in the future. Therefore, our projects will be very successful, and our customers will be satisfied.

    I offer this first to your attention (to the teams we have worked on the project), then I will present it to our executive director and the steering committee.

  3. After a preliminary study of internal coordination and communication, it is sometimes found that a log of lessons learned is missing.

    Given the future perspective development of the activity, you should pay attention to the bad practices that have occurred, which have caused damage and not good consequences. To learn and prevent recurrences, I propose to introduce a “Lessons Learned Log”. It should be noted that here in the log is the place to share and note all those good decisions and good practices that led to successful decisions.

    The diary would become a useful sharing of problems or good practices through which to gain usefulness in current situations to solve certain critical situations or problems.

  4. Given that I do not have work diaries, lessons learned and notes from the work of the team on previous projects, I will have to start over and introduce within the team a formalized process for analysis, documentation, and extraction of lessons learned to make further adjustments. and improvements to the current project.

    Applying the lessons learned usually requires the release of additional resources from the organization. For this to happen in practice, I will have to ask for support from the top management. To begin with, I will present a summary of the documented lessons learned from the current project to the project director and the program manager and will discuss the possibilities for making real adjustments and improvements.

    Good practices should be promoted and, where possible, applied by everyone in the organization. The project management community is a suitable place for regular sharing between the individual project teams of lessons learned and the results of their implementation. In this way, in the long run, the organization can use the lessons learned to develop a culture of continuous improvement.

    In my opinion, the establishment of a formalized process for analysis, documentation, and extraction of lessons learned will not only optimize the work on the current project but will be beneficial for all subsequent projects on which the current team will work.

    The learning process includes the following steps:

    Identification – includes a selection of comments and recommendations that can be learned. They can be a valuable asset of knowledge for future projects.

    Documentation – includes noting the detailed lessons learned during discussions in a report to which all participants can respond. The report is sent to the whole team and saved for future reference.

    Analysis – includes analyzing and organizing the lessons learned so that they can be applied and shared with other teams. They can improve project management or be used in training sessions.

    Storage – Lesson reports are stored on a shared device or in a cloud solution. This makes them accessible to all project teams.

    Retrieval – You must be able to search for keywords so that reports are easy to retrieve during and after the project.

    To facilitate the establishment of the process, we often need to provide additional resources for the development of a web application that allows uploading and keyword search of reports for lessons learned for a specific project. The application must be available for use by all teams in the organization.

    Once the application is ready and reports have been entered, demonstrate it to the project management community as a good practice that can be applied by other teams.

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