Lessons Learned – The effective Project Management

“If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written” – Murphy’s Law.

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”E” font=”Dancing Script” background_color_class=”otw-blue-background” size=”large” border=”border” border_color_class=”otw-silver-border” shadow=”shadow”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]verything learned from previous projects, whether they were successes or failures can teach us really important lessons. We know that it’s the result of our experience, but are these “lessons learned” shared with others within our project team or within our organization? If they are shared, do our colleagues apply the lessons to their own projects?

There are many reasons why lessons learned are not captured, or, if they are captured, not used, including:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of management support
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of clear guidelines about collecting the information
  • Lack of processes to capture information
  • Lack of knowledge base to store and search information captured

We know that if lessons were genuinely learned from past projects then the same mistakes would not be repeated on different initiatives; projects within an organization would then be more consistently delivered on time, within budget and to the customer’s complete satisfaction.

We often challenge with multi-functional teams that are both culturally and geographically diverse. Our budgets are usually tightly constrained and the business is evolving while the project is in progress, so requirements frequently change mid-project. As a result, organizations are not very effective at communicating across teams, and different departments are not well integrated – with the result that similar mistakes are often repeated.

Though there is a financial saving to be made in organizations from not repeating mistakes, we know that lessons are not often being learned from past projects.

Post Mortem Analysis

Post Mortem Analysis

Many of us conduct a “lessons learned” review at the end of the project – getting the team together to try to remember what
worked and what didn’t. With short projects – maybe just a few weeks in duration – this might work well. The team hasn’t forgotten anything.

For longer projects though, it is difficult to wait until the end to attempt to capture what is learned. Too often team members are ready to move on, or they have forgotten much of what should likely be captured. Better to track lessons learned throughout the project, as much as possible.

We should take into account that building a genuinely useful “lessons learned” database, that can be used to continually improve project processes, involves just a few simple steps:

Recording Lessons Learned

We should record both the problem and the solution as well as important project attributes in a single easily accessible database. This could make it easier to identify recurring issues, to update the data and to maintain the accuracy and relevancy of the data.


We should ensure that the data are grouped and searchable by key attributes such as project name, type, size, business area, functional area or any other attributes that have meaning for our organization.


We should inform all project teams whenever the database is updated with new information and, more importantly, raise awareness whenever the data has resulted in a change to the organization’s project processes.

Encourage use of the Database

We should allow free and informal access to the pool of knowledge and permit comments and feedback. We could invite suggestions for process improvement based on the lessons learned data for example.

Data Review

We should periodically review the data to remove out-of-date or redundant data to maintain a high level of confidence in the database. It should always be current and accurate.

Continually Improve Processes

We should search for problems that exhibit similar patterns and instigate appropriate process changes, such as introducing additional tasks and checks or changing the sequence of certain activities or changing optional tasks to mandatory ones.

We should know that organizations that regularly manage complex projects have a huge amount of knowledge and experience that is not being fully used. By building, maintaining and using a “lessons learned” database, this knowledge and experience can be shared and used to improve project processes and prevent the repeated occurrence of similar mistakes.


Here is a simple template we could use to gather lessons learned for our projects.
 Lessons Learned Template


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