Documenting Lessons Learned

by E.R. Williams

Documenting lessons learned. It's a day to day attitude and activity.

Based on the number of failed IT projects for the past decade it seems that transfer of knowledge and feeding back (sharing) lessons learned, did not take place. Frequently we see lessons learned not identified, discussed, documented and archived on a continuous or daily basis until the end of a project or during project close out (if close out is conducted). Total Quality Management, not just a buzz word, encourages transfer of knowledge and feedback of lessons learned that influences the company/enterprise's policy, process and procedural improvement. The feedback process can impact an enterprise in a very positive manner but it requires information fed back for use in project, process, and product improvement. Identify, document, and archive lessons learned for programs and projects, but when?

The failure of projects that were not on schedule, with budget overruns, mismanagement, missed milestones, the absence of configuration (including requirements) management, and products and systems incorrectly developed and produced; executed unsuccessfully, is indicative that there were problems and lessons to be learned. At the beginning of an engagement (program, project, resource, etc.), and during the up front work for sales and proposal activities, or product feasibility study/analysis, a repository/database must be established to capture lessons learned for a project, processes/activities, each phase, and for future projects. Structure a repository/database for all phases/processes/activities of a project. Set the rules and establish a procedure to capture, and identify where to archive or document lessons learned. Discuss at team meetings, project meetings and directly with the customer/client as required, and make available to Program/Project Office. Lessons learned can be discussed (without finger pointing, and many times anonymous) for use for improvements. Let's change the trend that existed during the past decade!

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