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Overview of Post-Project Reviews to Gain Effective Lessons Learned | Project Research Institute

Overview of Post-Project Reviews to Gain Effective Lessons Learned

 

This monograph, published in 2007, describes a research study  sponsored by PMI which considers practices for lessons learned in the project management field. The research covers both current and best practice. It has been reviewed in Project Management Journal (2007 38:2) and International Journal of Managing Projects in Business (2009 Vol 2:2). The monograph is divided into six chapters: 1- Introduction;  2-4 the state of practice; 5 the case study; and 6 conclusions. It considers the current state of practice through review of literature and survey of practice;  practice examples (in interview with 6 organizations) and specific examples of how lessons are learned from projects. 

The field of lessons learned in project environments is almost as old as the modern world project management itself. Clearly the need to learn from the project actions taken is valuable. Understanding what happens in projects and how this impacts outcomes provides learning that should influence future project outcomes. Is it too much of a stretch that this also means how to maintain the effective edge of project management practice and eventually the organization's bottom line.

The research identifies four questions which address four aspects of lessons learned overall:

Research Question One: What is current practice? what is currently considered best practice?

Research Question Two: Do these techniques actually achieve their purpose?

Research Question Three: Can we identify practical techniques to help draw out the difficult lessons from projects?

Research Question Four: How can lessons be incorporated into organizational practice?

The monograph although formal in its address of four research questions  is practical in feel. Considering the best practices and practices used in participating organizations a broad view on what you can do to learn lessons is available in this book. Refreshingly there is no one way recipe for implementing lessons learned but insight that provides the reader with the know how to make their own selection. The use of a specific case to describe common phenomenon puts a practice context on the larger findings.

The results of this research do address the research questions fully. There are anticipated findings within the results,  (for example,  mature organizations are better at doing lessons learned) but also a very classic observation where the majority considering a technique vital but then very few actually use it (for example,  communities of practice and lessons learned databases). My favoured take aways from this work are:

  • Although lessons learned activities are universally recognized to be important and they are not actively blocked in organizations more than half of organizations also believe them not to be supported.  
  • Regardless of how lessons learned activities are implemented they have a positive impact on the competence of the project managers involved although 92% of project managers think they don't do enough of it. 
  • Transferring lessons learned outside of the team and across the organization is problematic, only occurring in around 22% of cases.

Clearly there is much material in this monograph. We will discuss each of the research questions over the next 4 weeks in the forum, join in as you can it's an asynchronous discussion.

October 27th - Research Question One: What is current practice? what is currently considered best practice?

November 3rd - Research Question Two: Do these techniques actually achieve their purpose?

November 10th - Research Question Three: Can we identify practical techniques to help draw out the difficult lessons from projects?

November 17th - Research Question Four: How can lessons be incorporated into organizational practice?

November 24th - Closing discussion.

 

 

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