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Lessons Learned

 

Lessons Learned is a document that captures the insights, the Do's and Don'ts after a project has been completed. The experiences of the project team, as captured in the document act as a ready reckoner for all future projects and helps them in the following

1. prevent the common pitfalls of earlier projects

2. imbibe best practices from earlier projects

 

An application oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by R Rajesh on 4th October 2018. 

 

Applause for all the respondents - Sitaram, Yogesh Rathod, Manoj Kumar Alagesan, Bhupendra, Nayeem Raffi, Tripti Anil, Vishnukiran L S, Kaustubh Sathe, Anil Kumar S, KiranKumar, Chitra Hariharan, Hari Shyam Gupta, Vaishali, Archanna

Question

Q. 98  “Lessons learned” is the learning gained from the process of performing a project. Sharing lessons learned (LL) document prevents an organization from repeating the same mistakes and allows it to take advantage of the organizational best practices. Unfortunately, capturing lessons learned and further sharing is often given least priority or considered optional. What do you think are the major hurdles pertaining to the successful deployment of one of the simplest methods of ensuring operational excellence?

 

This question is open till 6 PM on Friday, 5th October 2018. All rewards are mentioned here - https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/forum/excellence-rewards/

 

Please remember, your answer will not be visible immediately on responding. It will be made visible at about 6 PM IST on 5th October 2018, Friday. Your answer should not be copied from elsewhere. Plagiarized answers will not be approved. (and therefore will not be displayed) 

 

All questions so far can be seen here - https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/forum/lean-six-sigma-business-excellence-questions/ 

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'Lessons Learned' is a key artifact/document in any project. Ideally you want to store/record the lessons learnt in each stage/phase(wherever applicable) of your project, be it a development project, maintenance project, testing project, or a Six Sigma project or whatever type of project it is. Why do we have a lessons Learnt document , in the first place? In other words, what are the benefits of having a lessons learned or lessons learnt document.

 

Benefits of Lessons Learned document:

1. It captures the anomalies/mistakes/errors that we did in our project, which suggest that we could have or should done things in a better manner and it acts as a pointer for us, that in future we should not repeat the same mistakes. 
2. Lessons captured are useful to portray how things could have been handled better. Therefore it provides the launching point for improvement.
3. Capturing lessons at every phase/stage of a project ensures that any unnecessary issue/problems getting propagated to the next phase/stage can be highlighted in the subsequent phase, so that the team can attack.
4. Lessons learnt sometimes can be costly.Damage done could be effort-wise, cost-wise, risk-wise and more crucially from a service provider point of view, could have been a bad impact on the customer front. Having recording the lessons which lead to such situations is worth a million dollar!! Because it will ensure you won't face extreme reactions (from the customer) in the future - say a penalty (from the customer) or a customer dissatisfaction.
5. Lessons captured (depending on the nature of the lessons that are captured) are always going to help not only for the current project team, but also for the team that will maintain the project(once the project is implemented - assuming the project is under development, in this case).
6. Also, in addition to #5, any other new project which share similar traits(characteristics) with this project, can get an idea of how to do things based on the lessons learnt from this project. 
7. Because the project teams identifies the lessons learnt and finds ways to act upon the lessons, it increases the confidence level of the team to address customer objectives/goals and thereby changes the mindset/working style of the team to some extent.

 

Why Lessons Learned document is not given the due credit/status in Organisations ? 
1.More often than not, Project teams either work under considerable time pressure to deliver their deliverables or just have enough time to deliver those deliverables. As a result, this document takes a back seat even though many teams might have an unstructured way of remembering or recording lessons.
2.The lessons learnt document will not be a deliverable (to the customer) to almost any of the projects in this world. Therefore, people would have an indifferent attitude towards recording the lessons that they learned in the project, in an organised way. Especially many a times, the project team would feel dreary at the end of a project and often they would feel reluctant to update or create a proper lessons learnt document.
3.Documenting the Lessons learnt require a bit of self-discipline. It has to come within the DNA of the team or there should be a strong process person who should guide the project team to ensure that this is done.
4.Importance of capturing the lessons learnt is not realized by many project teams.      
5. Project Management Office(PMO) teams or management does not emphasize more on this document as part of project closure phase, though in theory, it is mandated by many organisations. 

 

How to ensure Lessons Learnt document is captured ?

1. Creating an awareness session (to the project team) on the importance of documenting the lessons learnt in the project. The project lead or a process mentor or a senior person in the team can do this. This can create or imbibe the culture to routinely update the lessons learnt document. 
2. Many established Organisations will have learnt lessons template as part of the Organisational Process Assets (OPA). Project teams can explore existing templates and start using the template to put their own lessons learnt, as a quick mean to start this activity.
3. PMO team/management can put the rigour in place, by stringently insisting the project team to create and update the 'lessons learned' document and asking the project team to update it back to the Organisational Process Assets(OPA) - repository. 
4. Having Self-disciplined teams will ensure that lessons learnt are updated properly at each phase/stage(wherever applicable) of a project. 

 

Conclusion:

We can see how lessons learnt can help a project team. Depending on the kind of lessons that were learned in the project, they can be useful for the current project team or it could be even useful for the team that will maintain the project (in the case of a Dev project which goes to production) or for project team for a new project which is similar to the current project. Lessons learnt can help in minimising mistakes/errors for future stages or releases and it can also help in improving up your service/process/product. Because of the above mentioned reasons, it helps in avoiding customer dissatisfaction as it brings more maturity to our working style and therefore would give increased confidence in meeting customer goals/objectives.  Therefore 'Lessons Learned' document is an absolute must for a project. 

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Creating a Good Knowledge base, from the experience gained out of projects done to help in decision making is one of the constraints in process excellence, The idea of capturing expert knowledge into a quantifiable guide and resource is usually not considered as high value by the management. the reasons thereof:

  • They Feel experts are replaceable , so thinking of the future and codifying the knowledge is not seen as a necessary thing to do for future
  • The feel that "my Issue is unique" is one barrier that has caused the managements to not seek for help and see if the same / similar problems has been solved 
  • The management silos are hard to break , so the knowledge usually stay within the each of these silos and becomes redundant

These are now been slowly addressed , by the experiences i had the managements have been trying by the :

  • Usage of platforms that will make the projects visible to everyone and then make them a part of the study for the employees in their connect study
  • Usage of technology like Kaleo , the knowledge gained by the Projects are codified , then  encourage the prospective project filed to probe the platform if no ans are found then come up with the Projects
  • Develop teams like common platform teams, the act like wiki for the company ,  where the new ideas/issues are first evaluated for existing and known solved cases 

 

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Documentation may be the one of the part, sometimes Project leader may not maintain the good or bad learning.

 

May be post project Success/Failure no buddy wants to talk about minor leaning they came across during project Deployment stage.   

 

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Of course, it's one of the best and simplest way of achieving process excellence, But there are many reasons for considering it as an optional or less priority one

Below are some of the reasons;

  • Documenting Lessons Learnt (LL) required some extra effort and time
  • A set of paradigm developed about processes and standard work procedures, if existing standards or processes have no flaws then why we have to capture those unnecessarily
  • Often Lessons Learnt (LL) is considered as mistakes instead of lessons. No one is willing to admit their mistakes it's a human tendency
  • Not knowing the impact of Lessons Learnt (LL)

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I think this is a very crucial and important document which should be given importance while submitting the project. This also gives reference of the important decisions and steps taken  during the project implementations phase. This will work as book keeping and guide for the future people taking care of the maintenance of thr project. This will help them to avoid making mistakes and taking mistake proofing steps.

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1. It may vary case to case, if it is a Global Project. For example, LL doc created for one region may not be applicable for another region.

     Due to this reason, it may be good for deployment in one location whereas same document will not be good for another location

 

2. Similarly, process requirement may differ as per the departments and so this will create a hurdle in successful deployment. 

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Speaking from my experience with Accenture - service delivery teams' buy-in is the major challenge. I have had leads say that BE is not a must have its a good-to-have. My answer to them has been - Clients don't come to you because you know your job well. Clients know their business and work better than we do. BE allows them to bring scale, standardize operations and eventually automation to their processes making it more and more predictable and fail-proof. 

Learning is - have this talk with the major stakeholders in the onset. 

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hi, 

 

Practical reasons for less up taking of LL process in any organization are (purely based on my past experience):

 

  • Political reasons – people generally do not wish to open up improvement areas (“-ve” aspects of projects) fearing repercussions. Typically this is also linked to organisation culture. In some organisation – open communications are not encouraged or even feared.
     
  • Lack of process itself --   There are no defined LL process structure (who does it, when it will be done, what should be discussed, who are the consumers of LL minutes, lack of tools & infra-structure etc.)
     
  • In-effective project management – The typical project management also consists of capturing all key information throughout various phases of a project. If not done properly or captured wrongly, then LLs are either not done or done just for the sake of it

 

regds

Vishnukiran L S

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1. Not a focus area for Top Management

2. Organisational culture doesn't support learning. Capturing lessons learned considered waste of effort rather than investment for future proofing

3. Silos prevent exchange of ideas. Business heads want to guard their own turfs

4. Mid Management wants to project quantitative ROI to secure next year's budget. Lessons learned is difficult to quantify. Hence not a priority

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Hurdles I can think of
- Organization restructure : The new Management wants to bring in the best practices from the previous organization without evaluating the current environment
- Inability to transfer the knowledge of lessons learned to the new team or organization
- Outsourcing
- Moving data from one sharepoint to the other (Data Repository)
- Conflicts in Higher Management
- Resistance to Knowledge sharing
- Change management : Resistance from the project/team member to move through the change

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The Root Cause for  this missout is : Process not being the TOP Priority. Just the Outcome. As soon as the outcome is in sight, most teams & organizations switch to Documentation and Handover mode; sometimes even these being compromised. Other aspect that's making this step less attractive is : The speed at which change is happening in business models & processes.

By the time this document becomes necessary, the processs could have changed or eolved by several times or even might have transformed completely; leaving very little incentive for it to be taken seriously.

Yes, the educated Six Sigma professionals should ensure & inculcate the adoption of these processes as Mandaotry and of Cultural importance and not just seen from the lens of :Pain/Gain !! These practices definitely are a gain in the Long Term :)

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When we work on DMAIC projects, we often come across leaders who are impatient and cannot wait for 4 to 6 months for improvements to show.  In this case it is better to deal with the low hanging fruit first show results, gain their confidence and go ahead with break through changes like redefining timelines, technological changes, roles and responsibilities between onshore and offshore etc.  

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The main reason why most of the organisations give least priority to "lessons learnt" is the fact that when a project is complete and it's time to draft the LL document, the project manager, users and the sponsor is much more interested in starting the operations. Most of the projects get completed when the target date is overshot or on a date very close to target date and the project team are too busy in starting the operations because they have certain targets to meet.

Another prominent reason is that oftentimes, when the project team are about to reach to completion, they are too exhausted and just want to complete the project and get out of it. Drafting LL document would need them to further dwell into the thing of past.

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Dear Team,

Challenges in implementing LL,

a) Usually people are afraid to admit mistakes and have feelings that everyone will point fingers and thus is not documented or if documented it is not shared

b) People feel that it is just another document and there is no solution or consider it as trivial

c) It is thought that organisation only pays heed to lip service

d) People feel there are many lessons learnt and not sure what I should document

e) Awareness within the organisation about importance of lessons learnt so that one can overcome obstacles

Perhaps this can be included as a part of Management Review meetings at defined interval to create awareness and encourage people.

Regards,

Vaishali Tikare

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In my view most of us are focused so much on completion of the project that documenting lessons learned looses out on its priority. In our mind we have learnt the lessons so further documentation is given a skip. Having said that I think if we make "lessons Learned " a milestone in a project and a mandate for a formal sign off we may see some results. Initially this may be a push method but nonethe less if we can start capturing its benefits then there will be a cultural shift in the mindset.

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R Rajesh's answer is the chosen best answer as he has very clearly outlined the benefits, challenges and how to overcome the challenges. The detail provided in the answer supersedes all other answers. Sitaram's answer mentions some additional ways to overcome this challenge and is a must read!

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