- Lessons learned are the documented information that reflects both the positive and negative experiences of a project. They are developed out of the evaluation process as evaluators reflect on their experiences in undertaking the evaluation. Lessons can take the form of describing what should or should not be done, or describing the outcome of different processes. Capturing lessons learned should be an on-going effort throughout the life of the project. Whether the lessons learned are used to prepare for current projects or for identifying project management process improvements, evaluators learn from project failures as well as project successes.
- Lessons learned mechanisms communicate acquired knowledge more effectively and ensure that beneficial information is factored into planning, work processes, and activities. The mechanisms or processes used to collect, share, and disseminate lessons learned may vary, but in general such a process is comprised of five main elements: defining the project, collecting information, verifying applicability, storage, and dissemination.
Basic Lessons Learnt Process
- Define the Project: This step is the initial step where the need for lessons learned is identified and the process and team through which the lessons will be collected is established. It is important to establish the specific need and purpose for lessons and which individuals should comprise the project team. The team should then agree to a product format (length, style, and presentation), data collection and analysis methodologies (e.g., surveys, questionnaires, workshops) and process, dissemination strategy, and other activities that will be needed.
- Collect: The collection process involves the capture of information through structured and unstructured processes such as project critiques, written forms, and meetings Lessons learned can be based both upon positive experiences that achieve organization goals, and on negative experiences that result in undesirable outcomes.
- Verify and Synthesize: This process serves to verify the accuracy and applicability of lessons submitted. Domain or subject matter experts may be involved in coordinating and conducting reviews to determine whether or not a lesson is relevant across many other projects, is unique to a particular department or project, or applies to the organization as a whole.
- Store: The storage aspect of lessons learned usually involves incorporating lessons into an electronic database for future sharing and dissemination. Information should be stored in a manner that allows users to identify search lessons by keyword.
- Disseminate: The final element, and the most important, is the dissemination of lessons learned, since lessons are of little benefit unless they are distributed and used by people who will benefit from them. Dissemination can include the revision of a work process, training, and routine distribution via a variety of communication media. Lessons can be “pushed,” or automatically delivered to a user, or “pulled” in situations where a user must manually search for them.