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Learning from previous projects

In audits and lessons learned Measurement | 2 comments

What's your favourite approach to accessing lessons from past projects and why?


  • Kaye Remington
    By Kaye Remington

    This is a great question. I remember hearing about one Japanese company that required project leaders to 'purchase' lessons learned from the lessons data base before their project plan was approved by senior management. They were then required to 'sell' their own lessons to the lessons data base before final sign off. Draconian perhaps but sometimes 'legislation' is needed to assist cultural change.

    Ed Hoffman and a colleague from NASA introduced and published a project story book which contained interviews with project leaders written up as very entertaining short stories.

    In a cross-organisational change project, being conducted in an organisation that had a culture that opposed overt authority and excessive documentation, I used a different approach. This was a culture that thrived on conversations, many, various and almost always informal. I got senior sponsors to agree that they would not sign off on any project plans until the project manager had 1) posted a very short description (one paragraph) of the project on the intranet and 2) had found at two or three people (not from their own office) who had managed similar projects in the past and had taken them our for coffee to get the low down on their projects. This had a slow but generally positive effect on project management knowledge and it also had a positive effect on organisational information exchange.

  • Jonathan Norman
    By Jonathan Norman

    A number of major organizations (for example, BAe Systems) are only too well aware of this challenge. The big problem is that knowledge and lessons learned in many organizations resides in the memories and experiences of those who have the years of experience. With the imminent retirement of a whole wave of 'baby boomers', companies face huge knowledge legacy issues, simply because a large percentage of their (experienced) workforce are all facing retirement at roughly the same time.

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