Are you learning your lessons too late?

If you are a diligent Project Sponsor and made sure that your team complied with industry best practices at the end of your project you participated in a Lessons Learned activity that pulled together the entire team to reflect on the project…

  • What worked worked well in the course of the project?
  • In what areas are there opportunities for improvement?
  • How can we get better results?

As each team members settles into the meeting usually on pins and needles expecting to be the target of rapid fire accusations for everything that went wrong. The project manager eases some of the tensions by establishing some ground rules and creating a learning environment for constructive feedback and solutions oriented thinking.

There is an uncomfortable silence until the one brave soul finally starts the conversation…

“Well, I thought adding an ice breaker to each meeting with our stakeholders got them more engaged, this turned into lively discussions and we were able to get more information about their needs, wants, expectations, and requirements. But, our method of managing the information was a little haphazard and it led to a lot of confusion and having to ask the same questions repeatedly.”

It just takes one person to start the conversation, pretty soon you can hardly keep up while one person after another chimes in with more examples. There is a frantic chorus of “oh yeah”, ” I agree”, “I remember that” as people start to dust off the cob webs of their memory to retrieve anecdotes, funny stories, unusual requests, victories, and defeats giving life to these project moments all over again.

It’s hard to disturb the conversation because you witness the natural team building and human connection that occurs during this process. The energy in the room is completely different than when meeting started, but there is still work to do. The project manager refocuses the team’s attention on the list of items identified for improvement. Its time to offer solutions and action planning – what can we do better? Once again a flurry of comments, suggestions, procedural solutions, system solutions, training solutions.

You are impressed by the wealth of information that was collected that will inform the next project. You are even more impressed by the process of collaboration, camaraderie, and collective problem solving. You compliment your Project Manager  for a job well done and feel satisfied that you are now equipped with insights for improvement.

So what happens next…


Nothing – Life goes on!

I am not making any judgements or accusations, I am just stating reality. It is rare that the lessons learned document that was created is even referenced after that initial meeting and as much as it pains me to say it, all of the great ideas for making things better in your organization are long forgotten.

So why does this happen?

This method does not take into account that there is a 90 day window where people must start seeing results to enact any real change. In other words you have 90 days to 1) clarify the idea or suggestion for improvement 2) create an action plan 3) get buy in 4) implement it (at least on a small scale) 5) measure it 6) communicate the results.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds like another project,  I don’t have time for that. What if I told you that this is possible by changing your team’s approach to the lessons learned process?

If you incorporate the lessons learned throughout your project, you will see the following benefits:

Effective Team Building – Lessons Learned activities during the project allow the team to collaborate and problem solve on real situations, not manufactured or simulated activities.

Culture of Continuous Improvement – Creating a culture of continuous improvement through frequent lessons learned activities allows for course corrections or change to occur in a timely manner. You have an opportunity to beat the 90 day time clock. Your team can actually learn the lesson and do something about it.

Increase Team Performance – Remember earlier how I described the anxiety in the room at the beginning of the lessons learned activity. This anxiety didn’t just appear, it has hampered your team throughout the project. By having lessons learned activities throughout the project, you give your team the opportunity to identify the problem, determine a solution, and move on. This eliminates a burden that often impacts performance.

If you are able realize these 3 benefits, not only have you sponsored a successful project, but you have impacted the way your team collaborates for future success. Doesn’t that seem like a lesson worth learning?

If you are the Project Sponsor for a non-profit CRM implementation and want to give your team the tools to be successful, send me a quick email at dauwn@precisionpartners.org to request a free project strategy session.

Author: Dauwn Parker, Principal Consultant – Precision Partners

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