Lessons Learned: They Really Aren't a Bad Thing!

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.

Just two simple words: lessons learned. But say them to any project manager and they’ll likely groan, slump their shoulders and roll their eyes. The lessons learned process is almost universally loathed and despised by project managers who are forced to go through the exercise at the end of every project, knowing that the report will simply be filed somewhere and nothing will ever happen to it.

So why do we do it? Well, to answer that we need to look at our colleagues in agile project delivery. Agile teams perform something similar to a lessons-learned process, they call it a retrospective. And they don’t just do it at the end of a project, they do it at the end of every development cycle or sprint. That’s commonly every two weeks. What’s more, most agile practitioners will tell you that the retrospective is a critical part of the process and that it adds tremendous value. So, what’s so different?

Well, not much. But what is different is what’s important. An agile retrospective is designed to help the team improve, not the process. By having the team sit down at the end of every sprint and discuss what went well and what didn’t, it can immediately identify things that it can do better. And because agile is built around self-organized teams, those teams can go ahead and make those changes straight away. They don’t produce a …


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I've never heard of a relationship being affected by punctuation.

- Jerry Seinfeld

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