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Lessons vs. Lessons Learned in Project Management
By Barney Austen

The end of the project has been reached.

During the course of the project, things went well and things went badly. This is the nature of the beast.

There have been numerous meetings during the project and indeed after to reflect on what happened and why it happened in than way.

  • Actions have been taken to address what went wrong.
  • Actions have been taken to share what went right within the project with other project teams so they can benefit.

We’ve moved on a few months now.

  • We are looking at what went well in the latest project.
  • We looking at what went badly.

If we were courageous, we’d look back at the lessons from projects a few months ago and would see, almost word for word, the same points being made.

We have had lessons, but we have not learned anything.

Why is it that we, as project and business managers, rarely manage to take really valuable lessons from one piece of work or experience and apply it for the benefit of future activities?

The answer, I suspect, is that in order to introduce the necessary changes into a delivery methodology or perhaps to apply a brand new method of operation takes times and resource.

  • The business has moved on.
  • The next delivery is needed to go out the door.
  • The bandwidth simply isn’t there to implement the necessary changes now to benefit the future work.
  • Besides, we got the work delivered didn’t we?

Not good enough.

Management need to make time in any program of work to reflect and to work on the necessary changes.

Mistakes cost money and if the business is watching every cent (as they should be), then if its possible to absorb some cost now to implement necessary changes coming out of a “lessons” exercise, this should be done as it will save money in the future.

Sure, a practical analysis needs to be done to determine whether each lesson learned actually needs to be applied and whether its going to pay for itself in the medium term. But this exercise at least needs to be gone through for that determination to be made.

Management then need to get behind driving the lessons learned into other projects and operations.

Continuous service improvement is an exercise that should be undertaken by any business in project delivery. It needs to be driven as a management culture for it to be successful and to ensure the necessary allocation of resource.

In most instances, the long term benefit far outweighs the short term costs.

Barney Austen is the founder of (still in Beta), an easy to use, cost effective, powerful tool to provide both business owners and project managers the key information needed to run their projects efficiently and effectively. Barney Austen’s passion is to help businesses through the provision of functionally relevant, but intuitive products. You can read more from Barney on his company’s blog, available here.

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