The thesis “An advanced systemic lesson learned knowledge model for project organisations”

Well after seven years of research which started with a Master of Project Management (2010-12) with a research focus (thanks to USQ Project Management Business faculty) closely followed by a PhD (2012-2017) Doctor of Philosophy, I am now able to end phase one of the journey and start phase two. I look forward to working with researchers and knowledge management practitioners who want to take the Syllk model to the next phase and show how an organisation can learn how lessons from past projects experiences can be embedded in organisational artefacts, processes, practices, and culture. The thesis demonstrates that action research can benefit project management and knowledge management researchers and practitioners. The research program serves to support dialogue on the primacy of people (learning, culture and social) and systems (technology, process, and infrastructure).

To my followers, you are the first to have access to the thesis before I open it up to a wider audience. Enjoy the reading and if you have any questions, PLEASE do not hesitate in getting back to me.

Best, Stephen

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The Syllk model can assist an organization meet the revised ISO 9001:2015(E) QMS requirements

Up until now knowledge management and lessons learned have typically been highlighted in project management bodies of knowledge (PMBoK, APM Knowledge, PRINCE2, ISO21500 etc).

With the 15 September 2015 release of ISO 9001 the world’s leading quality management standard’. There is a new requirement clause on organizational knowledge:

7.1.6 Organizational knowledge

The organization shall determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of its processes and to achieve conformity of products and services.
This knowledge shall be maintained and be made available to the extent necessary.
When addressing changing needs and trends, the organization shall consider its current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access the necessary additional knowledge and required updates.
NOTE 1: Organizational knowledge is knowledge specific to the organization; it is generally gained by experience. It is information that is used and shared to achieve the organization’s objectives.
NOTE 2: Organizational knowledge can be based on:
a) internal sources (e.g. intellectual property; knowledge gained from experience; lessons learned from failures and successful projects; capturing and sharing undocumented knowledge and experience; the results of improvements, products and services);
b) external sources (e.g., standards, academia, conferences, gathering knowledge from customers or external providers).

[A.7] 7.1.6 of the ISO standard addresses the need to determine and manage the knowledge maintained by the organization, to ensure the operation of its processes and that it can achieve conformity of products and services.
Requirements regarding organizational knowledge were introduced for the purpose of:
a) safeguarding the organization from loss of knowledge, e.g.
– through staff turnover;
– failure to capture and share information;
b) encouraging the organization to acquire knowledge, e.g.
– learning from experience;
– mentoring;
– bench marking.

With the release of the revised ISO 9001:2015 standard, there is an opportunity for organizations to be wired for knowledge using the #Syllk model. The Syllk model elements are aligned with ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems (QMS) requirements.

sylk and iso9001 v2The Syllk model highlights the importance in understanding organizational knowledge facilitators and barriers and the associated knowledge management practices to understand how well they support or hinder learning lessons. By reconceptualising knowledge and lessons learned the Syllk model can influence organization learning. The Syllk model enables management to conceptualize how organizational know-how is wired (distributed) across various people and system elements of an organization. Research associated with the Syllk model has established that the alignment of the people and system elements (learning, culture, social, technology, process and infrastructure) can positively influence organization learning.

Duffield_GraphicalAbstract_V0.01syllk stUntil next time…


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Project Management Around the world #pmFlashBlog: Project organisations require a new paradigm for organisational learning through projects

Project Management Around the world #pmFlashBlog: Project organisations require a new paradigm for organisational learning through projects.

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(Picture Source: Mike Licht, reports)

At the end of the last #PMFlashBlog I highlighted a 2011 project management PM World Today editorial post on Lessons Learned but Knowledge Lost, where  Wideman a recognized project management global expert stated:  “…in spite of all the technology that is available to us today, we have not yet found a presentation format that captures the essence of this wisdom in a way that is relevant to future usage, readily searchable and easy to store. …we have a serious cultural problem. …we are probably condemned to continue to throw away the valuable resources.”

The majority of project managers think of lessons learned as… follow a process and enter your lessons learned into a tool…am I right?  Well the focus on with this #pmFlashBlog will be on the various Project Management guides and models on lessons learned.

Not for the want of opinions, guides, and models on lessons learned

Generally speaking, there are many opinions and guides, but little practical advice regarding workable processes that effectively enable the organisation to learn from past project experiences. Over the last 14 years the PMBOK® Guide has increased its references to the term lessons learned. In the PMBOK® Guide 4th edition there is a focus on process improvement as a result of lessons learned. However, in the PMBOK® Guide 4th and 5th editions the ‘lessons learned’ process is not discussed anywhere except for a glossary description and both versions refer to a different description on what is a lesson learned. PMBOK® Guide 5th edition has an additional twenty two references (mainly due to a new knowledge area – Stakeholder Management) and still remains focussed on project closure lesson learned activities. The PMBOK® Guide 5th edition also aligns with the Knowledge Management (KM) Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom (DIKW) model. However, the DIKW model which is based on the work of Ackoff (1989) has been challenged by the KM community as “unsound and methodologically undesirable” (Frické, 2009; Rowley, 2007; Vala-Webb, 2012).

Organisations are also not to be found wanting for lessons learned models and methods. The Project Management Institute’s OPM3 Organizational Project Management Maturity Model references lessons learned. However, there is less guidance than that provided in the PMBOK® Guide. The APM Body of Knowledge 6th Edition refers to knowledge management as the governance process rather than identification of the specific process around lessons learned and highlights the importance of people skills (communities of practice, learning and development) and delivery of information management. The Office of Government Commerce PRINCE2  project methodology encourages project teams to “…learn from previous experience: lessons are sought, recorded and acted upon throughout the life of the project”. PRINCE2 has a single process (a lessons learned log) for recording lessons learned and reporting on them (lessons learned report). The last to consider would be the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) model which provides for best practice organisational process improvement where process improvement proposals and process lessons learned are said to be key work products and sub-processes. The benefits of CMMI identifies the classic approach of collecting and translating key lessons into processes.

The Syllk model research to date…may influence changes to our Project Management guides?

 syllk model

 Syllk model (

The Syllk model is developed to enable project organisations to learn from their past project experiences by capturing lesson learned from projects and distributing knowledge across an organisational network of elements such as people (individual learning, culture, social) and systems (technology, process and infrastructure).

This blog is about sharing project management lessons learned research findings. Initial research progress suggests that by reconceptualising lessons learned in terms of an adaptation of the Swiss cheese model for safety and accident prevention, the Syllk model can influence the identification, dissemination and application of project management lessons learned. Early results have established that the alignment of the people and system elements has the potential to positively influence the success of an organisation’s lessons learned processes and that the people element and culture factor may well be the most likely to negatively influence lessons learned in organisations.

Furthermore, the initial research progress has also established that several elements of the model need to align to ensure organisational lessons are learned by means of projects. Finally, the research findings will contribute to the project and knowledge management literature and provide an opportunity to improve project knowledge sharing, and ensure projects achieve success for organisations to maintain a competitive advantage.

Understanding the impact of culture and just culture was identified as a key factor in the research and this was supported by the strong parallels found with health care, nuclear power, rail and aviation organisations. By applying the Syllk model to an organisation and identifying the lessons learned and knowledge management facilitators and barriers one can better understand the organisational systems required to support an environment that captures, disseminates and applies lessons learned.

 Until next time…Thanks for reading, Stephen

 About “#PMFlashBlog – Project Management Around the World”: This post is part of the second round of the #PMFlashBlog where over 50 project management bloggers will release a post about their view of project management in their part of the world. 



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PM BOKs and the knowledge challenge…

At a recent event in the PM UK APM Knowledge SIG November 2012 an interesting conversation took place.   To watch the outcome click on!

Great words by Judy Payne and Jon Whitty, pictures by Vanessa Randle and Tech by Ian Sabell.

I currently struggle with the BOK approach and this clip says it all…
We are not learning our PM lessons…
We need to find another way…


Update 25/4/2013: Check out also the related discussion in Linkedin – fascinating!



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Lessons Learned from a Nuclear Accident (A new addition to the lessons learned available to the general public)

Lessons Learned from a Nuclear Accident (A new addition to the lessons learned available to the general public)

As most of you know, I am always on the look out for public domain lessons learned. While researching for a new journal paper I came across the
Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO). The INPO was created as a result of the Three Mile Island event. The INPO help to identify precursors, disseminate lessons learned and best practices, and generally ensure that every plant operates with the best knowledge available (and also to forestall further regulation). The World Association of Nuclear Operators performs these tasks globally. Although knowledge development and dissemination have been successful overall, problems continue in this industry, which is under continuous scrutiny by regulators and a wary public (Carroll 2004).

Nuclear Energy Institute
INPO Updates Report on Lessons Learned From Fukushima Daiichi Accident
Lessons Learned from the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

The lessons learned make an interesting read…..

Looks like to me the SLLCK Model could help?

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Doesn’t a new NASA knowledge policy just mean another layer of bureaucracy?

Doesn’t a new knowledge policy just mean another layer of bureaucracy? Looking forward to the new policy

“…Where knowledge is concerned, the primary concern is ensuring that we manage the knowledge resources that enable us to execute the agency’s programs, projects, and missions. Up to now, the focus of NASA’s knowledge policy has been on capturing lessons learned in the Lessons Learned Information Systems (LLIS) database. As I’ve written in the past, there is a rich diversity of knowledge work going on across the agency, from the Shuttle Knowledge Console at JSC to the case studies developed at Goddard Space Flight Center. Our policy needs to reflect the breadth of knowledge management efforts already in place across NASA.

In January, the CKOs and points of contact from the centers, mission directorates, and cross-agency support organizations (such as the NASA Engineering and Safety Center and the NASA Safety Center) got together at the Academy Center for Excellence at Kennedy Space Center to forge a new knowledge policy for NASA. We left the meeting with a working draft that is being internally reviewed and revised. Two weeks after that meeting, the NASA Program Management Council granted us authority to proceed with developing this new knowledge policy. In the months ahead, I will be writing more about what the knowledge policy covers and how it should ultimately help NASA practitioners be able to find the knowledge they need when they need it. Stay tuned”

Sure will be….



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Lessons Learned from failures (A new addition to the lessons learned available to the general public)

Lessons Learned from failures (A new addition to the lessons learned available to the general public).


Government and business need to successfully manage programs and projects, to learn from success and failure, and to capture, disseminate and apply lessons learned (Duffield & Whitty 2012). Lessons from failures are a special class of Lessons Learned.

The term failure is defined as ‘a lack of success in doing or achieving something, especially in relation to a particular activity (Collins 2001); or ‘omission of occurrence or performance, or a failing to perform a duty or expected action’ (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2010).

Often individuals and organisations prefer success over failure due to the rewards brought by success. Even discussions of success are more welcome, and we are motivated by success more than by failures. We keep away from discussing failures because blame is usually accompanied with such a discussion. From the collective point of view, project teams often know they are in trouble, however they take no or minimal effort to resolve errors as owning up to failure may cause shame. So not unexpectedly, we tend to hold close to successful experiences and avoid stories of failure. This favouritism leads to a disparity between success and failure as sources of learning’s. Failures are necessary in the sense that they are essential prerequisites for learning, especially for learning lessons to prevent the mistakes of the past.

As you would know from this blog I keep a list of lessons learned available to the general public. I recently came across a Failure Knowledge Database (FKD) hosted by the Japan Hatamura Institute for the Advancement of Technology (Japan Science and Technology).  The work of Dr Yotarou Hatamura makes interesting reading.

Enjoy the lessons 🙂


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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Lessons learned debate turns to competitive advantage. Have your say… (from a Linkedin post) Part 1

Lessons learned debate has provided an interesting set of views, all focused in the right direction.

My latest comments are:  …Agree with Andrew, great to see the thread alive and thanks to Chris, Judfor their feedback. Chris, I am all for innovation, just that we need to be careful with the change process approach in learning lessons, as I have seen a couple of times that the leaning of a process may come back and bite you in the future, if you’re not careful. (A lesson learned for me). Judy, culture looks to be the key cause of failure in the lessons learned process, which is why I am looking for alignment to other culture experiences that may be able to add value to the project management lessons learned process. The just culture work of Sidney Dekker may also be of interest. On the question ‘lessons Learned’ (I really don’t like this label – can we call it something else? ) sends me down the path to why in am researching about lessons learned. For some reason, Project Management methodologies and PM knowledge books seem to only use the term ‘lessons learned’? Perhaps the Project Management community needs to shift the focus to more knowledge management, which will open up the language we use?  I like the work of Milton and Krammer in the KM space for projects. On the PMO front, having managed a functional PMO with 130 project managers, the trouble I see is you can lead a PM to best practice (…that has incorporated lessons learned) but you cannot make them follow it…hmm culture…people?  We as a PM community need to learn lessons and not repeat mistakes of the past.

Thanks for sharing, Stephen

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What are the impediments to sharing project knowledge?

I need your help. What are the impediments to sharing project knowledge?

don’t have time / takes too much time
not invented here
divisional stove pipe
geographical scatter
people afraid that sharing will make them less valuable
unwillingness to share
lack of trust
legal constraints
memories fade
people don’t want to appear vulnerable and stupid by admitting to mistakes
difficult to find what went wrong
we look at others as inferior to us
internal politics
lack of an actual organizational process to identify knowledge learned
lack of an actual organizational process to communicate knowledge learned
post-implementation audits are not done
takes too much time to document lessons learned
no way to classify lesson for easy retrieval
No one is assigned the responsibility
the lessons won’t apply to my projects
lessons Learned are not seen as useful
to use lessons learned would reflect badly on my reputation
unbiased information is not forthcoming
teams wont share mistakes and dirty laundry
Time / Schedule pressures – “Fire Fighting Mode” “Leave it until  later”‘
Costs involved
Don’t want to draw the crabs/seagulls
“Dangerous Attractiveness” of immediate fix
not trained in the use of software tools

What am I missing?

Regards, Stephen

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PMLLblog summary of Knowledge Conversion

A key element of KM is the knowledge conversion process. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) developed four modes of knowledge conversion based on cognitive psychology known as the SECI model (socialization – tacit to tacit / externalization – tacit to explicit / combination – explicit to explicit / internalization – explicit to tacit). They also state that the knowledge transformation is interactive and spiral based. They further note that an organisations knowledge is produced in a active and continuous interaction between explicit and tacit knowledge. When consideration is given to the enabling conditions of the four modes of knowledge, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) derived an integrated five phase model of an organisational knowledge conversion process. The difficulty of transferring tacit to explicit knowledge on projects is frequently discussed and most authors refer to the importance of externalisation mode of the SECI model (Bresnen et al. 2003; Fernie et al. 2003; Holste & Fields 2010; Keen & Tan 2007; Nonaka 2007; Nousala, Hall & John 2007; Reich & Wee 2006).

Firestone and McElroy (2003) indicate that the SECI model (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995) may be incomplete. The oversight is that the SECI model neglects to consider ‘implicit’ knowledge. Firestone and McElroy (2003) maintain that tacit knowledge is inexpressible and there can be no conversion from tacit to explicit, whereas implicit knowledge can be converted to explicit. Keen and Tan (2007, p. 4) refer to implicit knowledge as ‘…what we take for granted, rarely think about and are surprised to find that others do not share’. Srikantaiah et al. (2010, p. ix) refers to implicit knowledge as ‘…knowledge that is not captured in documentary form but in practice could be’. Polanyi (1958) makes reference to implicit knowledge so it is interesting to note that Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) made no provision for implicit knowledge. Wilson (2002), Keen and Tan (2007) and Srikantaiah et al. (2010) propose to include implicit knowledge as the link between explicit and tacit knowledge. Additionally, Day (2005) states that implicit and tacit knowledge are often synonymous terms and he attempts to clear up the implications for KM. The challenge with knowledge conversion and the lessons learned process is the ability to capture and transfer/disseminate the tacit/implicit knowledge subject as the KM project management process is primarily explicit in nature.

What are your thoughts on Knowledge Conversion? Have I missed something?

The next post will focus on Learning and Organisational Learning.


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