Effective “lessons learned” sessions: a better way to learn from your mistakes

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We learn from our mistakes. This is an age-old adage that we have been taught since our birth.

But do we apply this to every aspect of our lives? Most of us don’t. Project management is not an exception.

These “lessons learned” need not only be mistakes that we learn from. During each project, there might also be things that go well and these ways of doing things should be repeated in the upcoming projects.

So, let me take you on a little journey on how to best learn from these post-project “lessons learned” sessions.

1. Analyzing the project

Regardless of how painful and time-consuming it is, taking a moment and analyzing the entire project should be mandatory. But few actually do this.

Overviewing the past project is how you will find out where you went wrong and where you didn’t.

2. Recognizing the areas that didn’t work

By being completely transparent and honest with yourself and fellow team players is how you will find out what did not work.

It might be something really small that delayed the project by an hour or it could be a glaringly obvious faux pas.

WRITE IT DOWN, LIST IT, CIRCLE IT IN RED, BUT DO NOT IGNORE IT

3. Recognizing the areas that did work

On the flipside, you want to make note of what you did right. This could be something you want to repeat again in future projects.

While every project is different, there are fundamental similarities that can be brought over and carried forward again and again.

4. Questioning the team players from past projects

A project is as strong as its team. Asking the team players pertinent questions can help improve the future performance tenfold.

I have prepared a list of questions you can ask your fellow teammates during the lessons learned sessions.

How do you feel the project went?
Were there areas that you feel could have been improved?
Were there areas that you feel worked very well?
What was it like to work with the other team players?
Were there any team players that didn’t fit well into the project?
What would you change in hindsight?
What would you keep as it was?

5. Applying those lessons learned to future projects

Now that you have all the information and data from this post-project reflection, you need to apply this to new projects.

GATHERED DATA IS ONLY USEFUL IF IMPLEMENTED

Formulate a plan to gather relevant as much relevant information for future projects as possible. Your scheme of how a project should be outlined needs to be updated.

And if you do not have a broad and basic project plan to begin with, well this is the time to create one.

“Lessons learned” sessions can be valuable and enlightening or they can be an absolute waste of time.

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