Project closure isn’t the only process that utilizes the lessons learned. Throughout the processes of the project life cycle, project managers utilize lessons learned. From initiating, where a PMP or company representatives may use the failures to foresee what obstacles may be before a project is approved, through planning, where the lessons learned are used to try and avoid those risks. Through executing, monitoring and controlling, where the project managers and project management team record the information as events occur and the solutions that are implemented, and through closure where all lessons learned are gone over by the stakeholders before the final process of celebration. Lessons learned are a powerful resource throughout your current project and for all projects to come.
5 Steps to Using Lessons Learned
In order to get the full use of lessons learned, now and in the future, a PMP should work through the following:
Going through the Lessons Learned in previous projects can assist you in identifying what aspects may apply to the project at hand. By working through what went well, you can mirror those items, and by reviewing what didn’t go well, you can see how those items can be avoided.
Before the project is initiated, the Organizational Process Library is studied. While project managers aren’t always part of the initiation process, this is a good reason why they should be.
Projects are created in order to meet a need, and that need may grow from another project. Past projects that may be similar, whether it’s because the end product or service, or the resources, time, or location, may all be items that need to be evaluated.
A land contracting company has a piece of property. This property is in a township that has several wetlands. In the previous development in this township, the project team encountered delays with the Army Corps of Engineers in order to mitigate the wetlands.
By taking the time during the initiation and planning stages to look at this past project, the project management team was better able to plan the current project. The end product took longer to accomplish because of the location. The budget also had to be increased due to the cost to mitigate the wetlands. However, the organization now has contacts with the Army Corps of Engineers for this particular township, and they have a list of mitigation sites available.
Throughout the Executing, and Monitoring and Controlling phases of the project, documentation is crucial. Keeping accurate documentation as accomplishments of failures occur provide the team with more relevant information when it comes time for closure, as well as providing more accurate information for future projects.
Using our project sample above, the documentation went into more detail.
The project manager assigned the task of communicating with the Army Corps to Team Member A. Team Member A wrote letters and contacted the Corps. They wear able to find a direct contact as well as establish an up to date protocol for dealing with the Corps based on current guidelines. All information was cataloged in the Project Information Database.
It’s now time to take the information gathered to this point and share it with the team. Reports should be compiled for each part of the Project Management Office that needs to be informed of what has occurred and what solutions worked or didn’t work.
Team Member A created a report to the project manager. This report included the new guidelines that will be required for the future in order to find a direct contact within the Army Corps of Engineers. The project manager shared this report with the team and created a report to share with the client and upper management. The report detailed the actions taken as well as the steps that were taken to get the project moving forward.
In order to access the reports and the information, it has to be cataloged and stored within the project management information system (PMIS). This body of knowledge can then be used throughout the project and accessible to the team.
Team Member A collated all of the data and cataloged it into the PMIS in the appropriate folders
The final step is to make the data retrievable. By cataloging and storing it in the PMIS, and linking the dashboard to the spreadsheet anyone with access can readily find the information.
In order to be able to retrieve the information during the project and in the future, the subcategory for Army Corps of Engineers was added to the project data spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is connected to the PMIS dashboard for easy access to the folders.
Lessons learned is a way to document
- issues that occurred and how they were solved
- decisions that were made that caused delays or issues within the project, and
- steps that can be taken to avoid any mistakes in the future.
The initial contact made with the Corps left their position. The member of the project team that was in charge of the wetlands mitigation believed that the approvals were in progress, but they had in fact been overlooked incoming personnel at the Corps. Once Team Member A took charge of the approvals, they were able to work out the delays and get the project back online using the proper guidelines for the Corps as well as creating a plan for future involvement.
Each project has its own lessons learned. They are found throughout the project and can be used to avoid issues within the duration of the project as well as utilized in order to plan future projects.