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Maximising the value of capturing ‘lessons learned’

Most corporate project delivery methodologies suggest or require lessons learnt are captured at the close of a project.

Is this a waste of time?

Capturing lessons only becomes useful if it is consistently followed up with a feedback mechanism to ensure lessons are actually ‘learned’ across the enterprise.

In many cases, such feedback mechanisms are not in place, in which case project managers may be reluctant to put much effort into a mandatory step they deem de-valued.

In other cases, feedback may be captured by a central project assurance or audit function. This is a good step, but this assurance team must not try to ‘inspect in’ any new quality measures – project managers will resent new ‘requirements’ being generated from a central team.

The best approach is to develop a community approach which connects project managers directly with each other, allowing lessons to be shared and learnt almost in real-time. The central project assurance function can then curate these lessons, ensuring any common lessons can be incorporated into project approaches and methodologies. They can also help connect project managers and spot applicable learnings and help to spread the world. Similarly they can spot trends and help resolve recurring issues, e.g. with suppliers or project approaches.

This approach works best if lessons are captured throughout projects – either continuously or at each stage gate – and if the central assurance function is represented on all project steering board