Recently I had a team meeting to discuss lessons learned from a project and how we could document them to help reinforce the positive experiences and avoid the negative ones.
As expected, we had a template to document the lessons. We had one team in the room and other teams on a conference bridge and two hours to get it done. Of course, that came with pizza and drinks.
How do you manage to collect, assess, validate and populate data in a two-hour window? You have to have this data already present and entered into the system of some kind (whether it's electronic or paper), with such parameters as experience rating, failure points, links to deliverables each item refers to, impacts etc. And you have to have this information ready and available for this special meeting that simply reviews the results of what you've gathered over the course of the life of the project.
A system of lessons learned would include or require the following:
1. Lessons learned as one of the deliverables of the project
2. Method/forum for submitting lessons learned to the project management office or senior management overlooking the project or running the functional areas that require changes based on lessons learned
3. Method or process for integrating those lessons into the organization
4. Method of entering the information, such as electronic lessons learned system (web- or network-based) or collection of documents, spreadsheets etc.
5. Method of accessing lessons learned information from past projects, relating to specific areas of the project or organization
6. System to have these items as required components of milestones on the project plan
7. Contribution to the lessons learned from issue reviews in a semi-automated way, so that at the end of the issue review or steering committee meeting you could use the data to post it to the lessons learned system
Success of a lessons learned system depends on a buy-in from the sponsor, the steering committee and the organization to all the items above.
Have you implemented a lessons learned system recently or participated in a lessons learned review? What was your experience?