It’s all very well filing your lessons learned reports but is your organization taking note of them? During the project Start Up phase, project managers should look for Lessons Reports from previous projects and incorporate them in the Lessons Log for the new project.

Tracking is a job for Project Assurance and this can be done at a number of points in a project. Firstly, has the project manager looked for Lessons during the SU process? Secondly, at each stage end, have any new lessons been added to the Lessons Log? This can be compared to the stage results – time, cost, quality and to Highlight Report mentions of any problems encountered during the stage.
At project closure the Lessons Report can be examined for the project manager’s entries and these compared to Stage Plans and the Quality Register to see if any lessons learnt have resulted in any corrections or changes by the project manager.

Naturally at any time during the project, Project Assurance may become aware of a problem that should result in an entry in the Lessons Log, and can check: (a) that an entry has been made; and (b) that the lesson has been incorporated in the later planning and monitoring of the project.

Project Assurance can always ask for the End Stage Report to include any new lessons and what has been done as a result of the lesson.

What is important though, is that it’s not just a case of reports filed or meetings held. What project managers need is accurate information and well-reasoned decisions.

On Project Smart, Duncan Haughey’s article ‘Avoid the Same Old Mistakes by Focussing on Lessons Learned’ is worth a read. He says, “If project managers are going to actively contribute to the project management knowledge within an organisation and make use of it, then we have to make it easy for them. Nobody is going to go out of their way to do it. So it’s important to have a well defined and simple process for collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating lessons learned. It could be along the lines of discover – recommend – document – share – review – store – retrieve.”

I wonder how many organizations are really honest in their lessons learned reports, and how many project managers hide their real opinions from their sponsors. It’s difficult to step up to the mark and speak out when you know things are going wrong, but masking problems means the same old things keep coming up time and again. So the real question is, how truthful is the lessons learned log?

This is the kind of question we will be grappling with at the UK Showcase this June. It takes place at the QE11 Conference Centre on June 20th. It’s free to attend for programme and project managers. Register today or sign yourself up to host one of our Birds of a Feather sessions – your peers will thank you!