Perspective and Perceptions in Lessons Learned

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I don’t think many people enjoy the lessons learned process on projects. Aside from the fact that many organizations struggle to actually translate such lessons into improvements in their project delivery approaches, there is the inevitable concern that they will become exercises in finger pointing and nothing will actually get achieved.

Whoever is facilitating these sessions (often the project manager) needs to help the group focus on solutions and improvements rather than trying to revisit why things went wrong, and he or she needs to ensure all stakeholders remain engaged in the process. While there are many problems with the lessons learned approach (it’s why ProjectManagement.com is dedicating an entire month to the subject), I believe this very approach creates more problems, and that’s what I want to explore here.

Firstly let’s consider the double goal of keeping everyone engaged and focusing only on the objective items. For most of the core project stakeholders, that approach makes sense; but for some important stakeholders, those goals operate counter to each other. Individuals and groups who are only on the periphery of the project (only receiving limited communications or only involved for part of the project duration, for example) won’t have a lot to contribute on much of the mechanical elements that the project manager wants to …

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