Tips for lessons learned in Project Management

  1. Do it

The excuse of “there isn’t enough time” has long expired. The rationale behind this is the premise that it takes longer to study the challenges of others than to actively experience the same situation and solve it for yourself- clearly this has been dismissed.

  1. It doesn’t need to be formal

So you are conducting a project and your organisation has not kept much information on past projects.  Put on your detectives hat and do some investigatory work; speak to project managers and team members involved on similar projects, research other companies, run scenarios sessions, focus groups etc.

  1. Don’t wait until the end

To many Project Managers, lessons learned are a documented review of the project once complete.  The danger is that at the end the team has changed, even the Project Manager may have been replaced and with that much intelligence is lost. Also whilst the lessons learned may benefits future projects it doesn’t do much for the current project, or concurrent projects within the organisation.  A continuous improvement registry is a much better solve for this.

  1. Keep it short

No one is going to read a novel on the accounts of your project.  Summarise it, keep it short, no more than a single page- statistics show there is an exponential increase in the likelihood of something being read if it is within a page. You can always make yourself a point of contact for further information.

  1. Shift the culture

No one likes to make mistakes, let alone communicate them.  A client once told me a story of how they lost $30,000 on a project.  The immediate action was to “hide” the evidence.  He narrated it as a success story, “Whilst we were $30,000 over budget no one found out”.  My initial question of why “did you hide it” came as a shock to him, what compounded the shock was when I asked; “what’s the chance of someone else making the same mistake”?

To save face (or their jobs) many Project Managers expend effort to hide their mistakes, further compounding the effects.  If through communication this lesson prevented a single re-occurrence, the company would have broken even.  From that point on any future prevention can be seen as a financial gain.


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