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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Submission of PhD thesis and thankyou’s…

Hi all, If you have been wondering why the blog has been so quite, the following update will help…

I am about to submit my final PhD thesis for examination next week (16 November 2016). It has been an interesting and challenging last six years. I started part-time, converted to full-time, had 6 months of (due to illness) and finally will submit.

Last September (2015) I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Lucky for me 95% of the work had been done, just had to get the last 5% completed. It has been a challenge to do this over the last 12 months, but we are finally there. Going back to being a one arm typist (right hand) has had its moments…also my brain and body starts going into mush mode after ~20 mins etc so it has really been hard to complete the final thesis (what should have taken a week, has taken ~12 months).

I must thank the following folk:

My deepest and most genuine gratitude are owed to Associate Professor Jon Whitty my Principal Supervisor for his limitless guidance, support, encouragement and insight throughout the duration of my studies. Words just cannot truly express the extent of my appreciation with the level of commitment shown by Jon supporting both my masters and doctoral research activities over the last seven years. It has been a privilege to have been mentored by such a dedicated academic and to know such a trustworthy and light humoured person. Thanks to Jon, I have gained a good deal of knowledge from this academia experience.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Associate Professor Barrie Todhunter for accepting the role as my Associate Supervisor and providing support during the critical early days of the doctoral journey.

A special heartfelt thank you to my friend Dr Robyn Young who sadly passed away in February 2015. I first met Robyn when she was my emotional intelligence life coach in 2008. Robyn changed my life; we became good friends and someone I could talk to about anything. We spent many hours on Skype, on the phone and coffee chats at her favourite shops. I will miss those special moments we had laughing about research, study, work, life stress and the people in our lives, so many special moments. I recall the early trials of uBalancer (a life balance tool). I still have Youngs Priority Management System action chart on my office wall as it helps me to remain focused on my daily activities of family, work and doctoral research. Robyn was one of the major influences on my doctoral journey. I miss not being able to update her with my many challenges and taking on her advice. Rob was one very special amazing kind person, and it was good to see her in December 2014, another memory I will hold close to my heart.

I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the staff in the government departments and agencies who participated in the study. The honest and open feedback and participation in the action research reflection workshops added a great deal of value to the research and project activities.

Moreover, finally to my girlfriend and wife, Robyn, whose endless support enabled me to maximise the time I could devote to research activities. Your understanding, patience, and love provided the ideal platform to chase my aspirations.

I have been sharing my work with many interested parties. If you are interested, please get back to me, as I would like to see how the Syllk model can help you and your organisation. I will be slow and may struggle with my speech and movement, however I still want to find away to help the knowledge lessons learned community…

Until next time, Stephen (PwP)

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Nuclear Knowledge Management

Nuclear Knowledge Management

The IAEA has made public an excellent reference on Nuclear Knowledge Management (NKM), in the form of the NKM Wiki This wiki provides definitions and commentary on Knowledge Management as it is applied within the Nuclear sector.

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Application of the Syllk model wiring an organisation for the capability of an online Community of Practice

VINE vol.46 Issue 2 now released.

Thank you to all who helped to get this one over the line;

Stephen Mark Duffield , (2016),”Application of the Syllk model wiring an organisation for the capability of an online Community of Practice”, VINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems, Vol. 46 Iss 2 pp. 267-294

Here is a working copy that you can use if you do not have access to VINE.

application of Syllk for online CoP proof


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ISO 9001:2015 > A lessons learned game changer for the application of the #Syllk model

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

Very soon (~end of 2015) we will see the release of ISO 9001:2015 ‘the world’s leading quality management standard‘. There is a new clause on organizational knowledge as a new requirement:

7.1.6 Organizational Knowledge Requirements:

• Determine the knowledge necessary for the operation of processes and to achieve conformity of products and services.
• Maintain this knowledge and make it available to the extent necessary.
• Consider current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access the necessary additional knowledge (when addressing changing needs and trends).
• NOTE 1: Organizational knowledge can include information such as intellectual property and lessons learned.
• NOTE 2: To obtain the knowledge required, consider: a) Internal Sources (e.g., learning from failures and successful projects, capturing undocumented knowledge and experience of topical experts within the organization); b) External Sources (e.g., standards, academia, conferences, gathering knowledge with customers or providers).

“Knowledge” is defined in the terms section as the available collection of information being a justified belief and having a high certainty to be true.

When addressing changing needs and trends, the organization shall consider its current knowledge and determine how to acquire or access the necessary additional knowledge…Understanding, Knowledge,and Awareness of ISO 9001:2015 Dr Nigel H Croft Chair, ISO/TC176/SC2 (Quality Systems). …remember Deming – “There is no substitute for profound knowledge of the business”

A new opportunity for organizations to be wired for knowledge using the #Syllk model.


syllk st

Until next time…


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AIPM Conference 2015 update

I will be presenting the Syllk model at the 2015 AIPM conference. Looking forward to sharing with the PM Community. More updates to follow…

Application of a Systemic Lessons Learned Knowledge Model for Organisational Learning through Projects


A significant challenge for organisations is to ensure that lessons are learned and that mistakes of the past are not repeated. Both the knowledge and project management literature suggests that the lessons learned process in practice rarely happens, and when it does it is usually concerned with lessons identification rather than organisational learning taking place. It appears that there are limited models for management to use to conceptualise what organisational learning is and therefore how to enable it. This paper describes how a Systemic Lessons Learned Knowledge (Syllk) model (a variation of the Swiss cheese model) can enable project organisations to conceptualise how they can learn from past project experiences and distribute successful project know-how across an organisational network of elements such as learning, culture, social, technology, process and infrastructure.

Keywords: Project Management; Knowledge Management; Lessons Learned; Organisational Learning, Action Research, Syllk model



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Syllk model “IJPM paper (In Press, Corrected Proof)” now available wef: 6 August 2014

Hi to the Syllk followers,

Developing a systemic lessons learned knowledge model for organisational learning through projects

…is now available on-line at International Journal of Project Management.

More information can be found at pmlessonslearned publications – IJPM 2014-2015 page.


Now working on the next research journal paper – Application of the Syllk model in an organisation using Story telling…


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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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