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 Log 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 a 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 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.
When solving a specific case in the process of work or reaching certain conclusions at the end of a project, a certain experience is gained. To make the most of the accumulated experience and not to forget over time, it would be a useful practice to systematize and shape the achieved decisions/conclusions in text or graphic form, which is accessible to all employees.
In this way, valuable time can be saved when making decisions and solving work tasks. Archiving “lessons learned” would facilitate communication between teams. It will not be necessary to consult individual participants and possibly make mistakes when transmitting information orally. Archiving “lessons learned” excludes the possibility of an attempt being forgotten over time.
Preparing a single template for a “Lessons Learned Log” would facilitate work orientation. Taking time to systematize and summarize the experience gained would be useful for all participants in the organization and would lead to better information on various cases of a larger number of participants. This will increase the level of competence of the teams.
The “log” should be seen as a shared experience that is important for the growth of the organization. In this way, individual participants gain confidence that they can handle different cases and do not necessarily rely on the help of certain colleagues. Rapid resolution of similar cases leads to a gain of time and resources and the opportunity to direct them to other tasks. Adopting such a practice would improve the organization’s performance in terms of productivity, communication, time, and resources.