Project Management

Embracing Mistakes: Learning from Experience

PMI NC Piedmont Triad Chapter, and Shawn P. Quigley

Projects are unique. Each present distinctive challenges, though these challenges often are constant enough in theme to allow an extrapolation to other projects. We can see in projects, functional areas and business processes where this failure of learning costs our organization dearly. Learning and adapting are hallmarks of good project management and of functioning organizations. Making mistakes is not a problem, as that is how we learn.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
~ Rita Mae Brown

Making a mistake provides us with an opportunity for learning. Taking time to savor the experience, assess the results and consider what would make the outcome different also opens up future opportunities.

This critical introspection may not be comfortable. However, it should be something we look forward to, for it enables us to grow. This concept is called “personal mastery” and is one of the five disciplines elaborated in Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline. While most people think this applies only to the individual, we would suggest that an organization, department or even a project team would benefit from this approach.

Learning from mistakes will help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our procedures and processes. It may sound like platitudes, but it can be fact if we take the time and …

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"Weaseling out of things is good. It's what separates us from the other animals....except weasels."

- Homer Simpson