Lessons learned from cross functional projects can add value to the business by capturing knowledge. Project teams can use lessons learned to improve future performance and to avoid risks. Project lessons can be positive or negative. Collecting lessons learned is an important project management function.
- Before you declare a project complete, turn the lights off and go home, there's one more element of the transition that you need to take into account. In this video, we'll focus on capturing the lessons that you and your team learned from this project. One of the things that I love most about working on projects is how much I learn. And the completion of a project is a great opportunity to bring the team together, so that we can share what we learned with each other. Taking the time to reflect, is really a proactive investment in preparing your team for future projects.
But there is also another more personal reason to capture the lessons learned. One of the groups that is most affected by the completion of a project, is the project team. You and your colleagues will experience a change. You will all be transitioning, maybe to other projects, maybe even to another job or another company. So each of you will go through a process of letting go of the project, moving into the neutral zone, and preparing for a new beginning.
Capturing lessons learned can help you and your team begin this transition. While it isn't always possible, my favorite approach to capturing lessons learned is to host a workshop that lasts about two hours. Before the workshop, I ask the team to make a list of the things that they, or we, learned from this project. Both good lessons and bad ones. That way, everyone comes into the workshop having spent some time thinking about it, and with a list in hand.
When the workshop begins, I ask them to write their lessons on sticky notes. Then we spend the first hour taking turns, going around the room, with each person placing two sticky notes on the wall, one good and one bad. And then explaining them to the whole group. We continue going around this way, each person taking a turn, one good lesson and one bad, until all of our lessons are on the wall. Next, we spend an hour using affinity diagramming to organize the lessons, as a facilitator helps us discuss them and combine them into some common themes.
Finally, after the workshop is complete, the affinitized lessons are captured in a lessons learned report, that then gets shared with the team, and included in the records for the project. It's hard to describe how powerful a lessons learned workshop can be, but it's an amazing thing to experience. Of course, the workshop approach only works if you can get most or all of your team together in the same place at the same time. But even if you can't arrange for a formal workshop, you can still capture the lessons and help your team begin their transitions using email, conference calls, and other virtual platforms.
Capturing lessons learned helps to ensure that you're getting the maximum benefit of the experience that you and your team have acquired, while helping your team make a smooth transition when the project ends. As a leader, when you commit to capturing these lessons, you're making an investment in both your organization, and in your team.
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