provided with simple prompts to frame their submissions: We asked them to identify the original
goal, the failure, the assumptions that were made,
and most importantly, what they learned.
In this case, the act of sharing knowledge was
just as valuable as details about any one failure or
lesson learned. The exercise became a small step
toward culture change.
HOLD OPEN CONVERSATIONS
Another way to encourage teams to share lessons learned comes from Peter Senge’s concept
of the “learning organization” from his book The
Mr. Senge emphasizes the value of team learning—open conversations, free from assumptions,
among team members. Such dialogue has the
potential to bring collective knowledge to light
that might not have otherwise been uncovered.
Team learning is useful when determining how
the lessons learned from any given project might
benefit current work, downstream projects or the
organization more broadly.
I’ve found that facilitating team learning takes
time. You have to invest in people’s sense of self
before they will risk participating in truly open
conversations. A great way to start is to be explicit
about team learning as a goal. With that end in
sight, team members may be more willing to contribute. Also, take the risks you want your team
to take: My team and I will share uncertainties or
incomplete thoughts, ask questions or try to summarize the discussion thus far. Create opportunities to fill in the blanks as a group.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Simple spreadsheets, internal collaborative platforms,
external web-based networks and even paper-based
tools can help your team document its lessons
learned and share them with the relevant people.
Following the recent pilot launch of an internal
education help desk, my colleagues implemented
PMP, is program
knowledge translation, Learning
Hospital for Sick
an evaluation strategy to support the project roll-out. Pilots are all about lessons learned, so the
project managers developed a one-page tool to
scaffold a weekly debrief. Everyone involved with
the help desk attended the 15-minute Monday
morning debriefing session.
This simple approach did three important
things. First, it put lessons learned front and
center. Knowing the debriefing session was coming reminded us to note anything that was worth
rethinking. And it made it easy for busy team
members to quickly reflect. Second, it framed the
evaluation. By posing specific but open-ended
questions (developed with stakeholder input), the
tool captured learning that was most relevant to
the growth of the project.
Finally, it made capturing lessons learned
concrete. Even a single page of notes is a tangible product that can be collected, summarized, discussed and formalized later into official
documents. When you really want to capture
day-to-day experiences, challenges and ideas for
improvement, it pays to keep it simple. PM