Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Waste time on “Lessons Learned?”

When I worked as a MBB charged with an organizational process improvement deployment, my perspective on a Belt’s activity was more global than that of the individual project perspective.  

From that strategic perspective, an unspoken goal of every process improvement project is for the belt to model great leadership behavior, that will be imitated by the organization.  In a very subtle way, the organization is taught new behaviors through the “Belts’ behavior and subsequent success.”  One of the messages that should be communicated to the organization through “Lessons Learned” is that “GREAT leaders always look back!”

If you treat a project as an independent event, you are absolutely correct in your observation that there is little or no value-added added to a project by looking backward…”your work is done…let’s get on to the next challenge!”   

I cringe when I hear that sentence!   

Projects are more than that, from my perspective.   

The “Lessons Learned” activity has many valuable contributions to provide, to a project and an organization, some evident and others, obscure.   

It is apparent that from a knowledge management perspective, Lessons Learned:
  • ·        Identifies other opportunities within the scope of the project.
  •       Keeps other project leaders from making the same mistakes in similar projects.
  •       Provides future project leaders short-cuts and paths to more efficient and effective projects.

From the more obscure, leadership training perspective “Lessons Learned” models an often overlooked leadership trait.  

Great leaders look back and fix what was negatively affected by an effort, before “declaring victory.”  

They work to make the present better for all that have been involved or impacted by their actions and set the stage for future being better.  

Many projects are criticized for their “paths of destruction” effects.   I have heard the comment, “You may have fixed this, but look what you did along the way!”  I have also heard during the project close-out meetings, “X” was affected by our work, because the nature of their job changed too!  We need to “Y” before we call this project finished.

“Lessons Learned” are opportunities to simultaneously; put the finishing touches on a project, teach an organization subtle lessons in process improvement and leadership and set the stage for future improvements and success.  

“Lessons Learned” have significant value to add to a project when conducted appropriately and are an excellent opportunity to teach leaders that their role is more than a linear set of focused events, but global…continuously working the past, present and future.

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