The term lessons learned refers to the various experiences project team members have while participating in a project. Lessons are shared in a review session which usually occurs once the project has been completed, with any improvements or best practices incorporated into subsequent projects.
|Definition||Lessons Learned, often abbreviated as LL or LLs, is a systematic process of capturing, documenting, analyzing, and disseminating knowledge and insights gained from past experiences, both successes and failures, to inform and improve future endeavors. It is a fundamental practice in project management, organizational learning, and continuous improvement.|
|Purpose||The primary purpose of Lessons Learned is to promote learning from past actions, events, or projects. It aims to avoid repeating mistakes, replicate successful strategies, enhance decision-making, and foster a culture of continuous improvement within an organization or project team.|
|Key Elements||– Data Collection: Gathering data on project activities, outcomes, challenges, and solutions. |
– Analysis: Evaluating the collected data to extract insights and identify key takeaways.
– Documentation: Recording lessons in a structured format for easy retrieval and dissemination.
– Sharing and Dissemination: Communicating lessons to relevant stakeholders to benefit future projects.
– Actionable Recommendations: Providing specific recommendations and actions based on the lessons learned.
|Implementation||The Lessons Learned process typically involves regular reviews, meetings, or workshops at the conclusion of a project or phase. Team members and stakeholders share their experiences and insights, which are then documented, analyzed, and distributed to relevant parties.|
|Analysis||– Evaluating the root causes of both successes and failures to understand underlying factors. |
– Identifying patterns, trends, or recurring issues to develop preventive measures.
– Extracting actionable recommendations and best practices for future projects.
– Assessing the impact of lessons learned on decision-making and project outcomes.
|Benefits||– Improved Decision-Making: Informed decisions based on past experiences lead to better outcomes. |
– Risk Mitigation: Identifying and addressing potential risks and challenges in advance.
– Efficiency: Avoiding redundant efforts and minimizing costly mistakes.
– Knowledge Sharing: Fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and organizational learning.
– Continuous Improvement: Encouraging ongoing refinement of processes and approaches.
|Drawbacks||– Resistance to Change: Some team members may resist incorporating lessons into their practices. |
– Documentation Overload: Excessive documentation without clear value can be counterproductive.
– Lack of Follow-Through: Lessons may be acknowledged but not effectively implemented in future projects.
– Resource Intensive: The process requires time and effort to collect, analyze, and disseminate lessons effectively.
|Use Cases||– In project management, a construction company documents lessons from previous projects to improve safety protocols and avoid accidents on future sites. |
– A software development team analyzes lessons learned to refine their development process and reduce post-release bugs.
– An educational institution uses lessons learned to enhance curriculum design and teaching methods based on student feedback.
|Examples||– An aerospace company learns from a failed rocket launch to refine its engineering and quality control processes for future missions. |
– A healthcare organization uses lessons learned from past epidemics to develop a more effective response plan for the next public health crisis.
– A marketing agency compiles lessons from previous campaigns to optimize strategies for future clients.
Understanding lessons learned in project management
In project management, the lessons learned review is held at the completion of a project where team members discuss their positive and negative experiences.
Patti Armanini, a Quality Manager at Festo USA, stressed that the lessons learned review was also important for several other reasons.
In an interview with collaboration SaaS provider Smartsheet, she called on project managers to:
“review past lessons learned to avoid making similar mistakes the next time around. But it is just as important to leverage the wins going forward, to help streamline the project, and to help remove impediments before they happen.”
To that end, the most skilled project managers can tell the difference between processes that help a team and those that hurt it.
What’s more, they seek input from every project team member irrespective of rank or seniority level and, in this way, are able to utilize the lessons learned process as a team-building tool.
The five steps of lessons learned in project management
The Project Management Institute (PMI) outlines five distinct steps in its documentation of the lessons learned process.
Step 1 – Identify
The process starts with the identification of lessons learned.
Many project teams complete surveys that assess their experiences or emotions with respect to categories such as communication, planning, resources, technical, design and build, testing, and implementation.
Step 2 – Document
Once lessons have been identified, they should be listed in a document with three columns: what the team has done well (successes), what the team has not done well (failures), and areas for improvement.
This must be a collaborative effort.
Step 3 – Analyze
The lessons learned are analyzed and a report is created for distribution to team members and other relevant project stakeholders.
This step is vital at any point of a project but is especially relevant at the midpoint as it allows subsequent phases to be improved. Feedback should be transformed into actionable improvements for future project teams.
Depending on the audience, the project team report may take several forms:
- Detailed report – these are organized by key fields from the template mentioned in step two and include team member responses.
- Summary – these tend to be shorter briefs where findings are summarized and recommendations are made to correct them.
- Findings – a summary of the issues found from the lessons learned review process, and
- Recommendations – a higher level report where actions are recommended and those approved are documented and tracked until completion. When findings require a significant amount of resources to address, the approved action may become part of the project itself.
It is important that each recommendation for action makes sense to members of that audience.
In other words, it is meaningful or applicable? For executive-level decision-makers, the data in the report must also be converted into metrics that make sense to them.
Step 4 – Store
The report is then stored away for use in future projects in a location that is freely accessible to all parties. Today, this can involve cloud storage.
Step 5 – Retrieve
To make information retrieval easier and more accurate, the project manager should assign keywords to each lessons learned review.
For example, if one of the lessons pertained to scheduling more time for the results to be delivered, keywords such as deadline and phase two delivery could be assigned to the report.
- In project management, the lessons learned review is held at the completion of a project where team members discuss their positive and negative experiences.
- Lessons are shared in a review session which usually occurs once the project has been completed, with any improvements or best practices incorporated into subsequent projects. The review also enables teams to streamline future projects, leverage wins to build team cohesion, and remove potential impediments.
- According to the Project Management Institute, there are five steps to the lessons learned: identify, document, analyze, store, and retrieve.
- Lessons Learned in Project Management: “Lessons learned” refers to the insights gained from the experiences of project team members during the course of a project. These lessons are discussed in a review session held once the project is completed. The goal is to identify areas for improvement and best practices that can be applied to future projects.
- Importance of Lessons Learned Review: Patti Armanini, a Quality Manager at Festo USA, emphasizes the significance of the lessons learned review. She suggests that project managers should review past experiences to avoid repeating mistakes and leverage successes to enhance project efficiency and prevent obstacles.
- Skilled Project Managers’ Approach: Proficient project managers differentiate between processes that benefit the team and those that hinder it. They seek input from all team members, regardless of their rank or seniority, utilizing the lessons learned process as a means of team-building.
- Five Steps of Lessons Learned Process:
- Step 1 – Identify: The process begins with identifying lessons learned. Teams often use surveys to assess experiences in categories like communication, planning, resources, technical aspects, design and build, testing, and implementation.
- Step 2 – Document: Lessons are listed in a document with three columns: successes, failures, and areas for improvement. Collaboration is essential in this step.
- Step 3 – Analyze: Analyzing the lessons learned leads to the creation of a report for team members and stakeholders. It is crucial for improving subsequent phases of the project.
- Step 4 – Store: The report is stored for future reference, often using cloud storage for accessibility.
- Step 5 – Retrieve: Keywords are assigned to each lessons learned review to aid in easy and accurate information retrieval.
Connected Analysis Frameworks
Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Business Models, Tech Business Models, Jobs-To-Be Done, Design Thinking, Lean Startup Canvas, Value Chain, Value Proposition Canvas, Balanced Scorecard, Business Model Canvas, SWOT Analysis, Growth Hacking, Bundling, Unbundling, Bootstrapping, Venture Capital, Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Generic Strategies, Porter’s Five Forces, PESTEL Analysis, SWOT, Porter’s Diamond Model, Ansoff, Technology Adoption Curve, TOWS, SOAR, Balanced Scorecard, OKR, Agile Methodology, Value Proposition, VTDF Framework, BCG Matrix, GE McKinsey Matrix, Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.