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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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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What Project Management Means To Me #PMFlashblog Teaser

Something exciting and unique is happening on 25th September in the world of project management. On this day at least 70 people of which I am one will be publishing a blog post at the same time on the same topic. What does project management mean to me. Welcome to #PMFlashblog

This fantastic idea has been created by Shim Marom over at Quantmleap (a great blog that you really should subscribe to). You can read more about the #PMFlashblog here

Henny Portman who is also taking part in the #PMFlashblog has created a fantastic infographic the plots all those taking part on a world map. You can view the map hereSee here for a list of those taking part in the #PMFlashblog.

Looking forward to the 25th…. Stephen

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Truly Reconceptualising Project Knowledge Management

PMIQ Chapter Meeting – Brisbane – 19 June 2013

* Click Here to Register Now *

Introducing Dr Jon Whitty – Senior Lecturer, Project Management

Many organisations today are struggling with implementing the somewhat unclear concepts of ‘lessons learned’, ‘knowledge capture’ and ‘knowledge management’.  This presentation tackles the problems with these concepts head-on and proposes a new practical conceptual model of building organisational knowledge through projects. What is innovative is that this new model has its roots firmly grounded in naturally evolved biological systems.The new conceptual model is practical and somewhat intuitive when properly understood. At the end of this session you will be able to immediately reconceptualise how your organisation truly learns and could better adapt to its environment.

This talk is linked to this paper.

dr jon whitty

Jon is my PhD Supervisor, I would encourage you to attend this presentation, as it represents the SyLLK model in another perspective.

Enjoy, Stephen


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Managing knowledge in project environments

Tired of struggling with lessons learned? Confused about knowledge management? Want to find out how organisations can really learn from projects? What’s the connection between knowledge management and swiss cheese?

Knowledge management practices are notoriously difficult to standardise. Every project, every programme and every organisation is different – and what works in one place can be a disaster in another.

APM Knowledge SIG is holding an event where they will hear two very different case studies: one from Brendan McAndrew of Mouchel and one from Michael Norton of the Local Government Association.

Jon Whitty, senior lecturer in project management at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, will then present a new way of thinking about how to build organisational knowledge from projects. Through discussion based on the two case studies, you will learn how to apply Jon’s model in different environments. (This is the model on which this pmlessonslearned blog is based on. Jon is my PhD supervsior).

At the end of the afternoon you will have some practical examples of managing knowledge and be able to rethink the way your own organisation could adapt its own knowledge and learning practices to its environment. (I am looking foward to the outcome to hear the SLLCK model feedback from the APM Knowledge SIG event)

This event is aimed at project, programme and portfolio professionals looking to develop their understanding of knowledge management beyond traditional approaches.

Body of   Knowledge references

Edition Section Description
5th 3.7 Information management and reporting
6th 1.1.5 Knowledge management

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Truly reconceptualising project knowledge management

My PhD supervisor Dr Jon Whitty will be presenting ‘Truly reconceptualising project knowledge management’ at a UK APM Project Knowledge Management function on Tuesday 4th December 2012.

What better way to begin 2013 than with a new idea about how projects can enable organisations to learn, and how they can deliver projects better in the future.

Many organisations today are struggling with implementing the somewhat unclear concepts of ‘lessons learned’, ‘knowledge capture’ and ‘knowledge management’.  This presentation tackles the problems with these concepts head-on and proposes a new practical conceptual model of building organisational knowledge through projects. What is innovative is that this new model has its roots firmly grounded in naturally evolved networked systems.

The new conceptual model is practical and somewhat intuitive when properly understood. At the end of this session you will be able to immediately reconceptualise how your organisation truly learns through projects and could better adapt to its environment.

Dr Jon Whitty is a Senior Lecturer in Project Management at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. He leads and develops program and project management research and coordinates a Master of Project Management program. Jon is an expert in the application of evolutionary principles to project management matters. He also contributes to the discussion on complex project management and what project management can learn from philosophy.

He has been a member of editorial boards of project management journals, and regularly reviews research and scholarly articles. He frequently present papers at domestic and international project management conferences, and has written book chapters and published articles that present evolutionary and philosophical approaches to project management.
Many of his talks can be found on his YouTube channel

APM Body of Knowledge reference
Edition Section Description
6th edition 1.1.5 Knowledge management

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Talk about Lessons Learned, KM and PM on LinkedIn

Talk about Lessons Learned, KM and PM on LinkedIn.  Below are 4 recent LinkedIn posts all about Lessons Learned KM and PM.  I have made comments and found some like minded folk who share a passion for Lessons Learned… Enjoy the links and reading

Project Manager Community – Best Group for Project Management
Lessons Learned Meetings – Dumb Idea?
Are waiting to do lessons learned meetings at the end of the project valuable or by then is it too late and they are just dumb?

Project Management Link ( Project, Program & Portfolio Managers )
Hello Project Managers, What is “Lessons Learnt” or “Learning from Experience”?Is it about transferring relevant knowledge of an individual to the many?
Is it about “Experience is the best teacher”, and so we should always capture our important experiences and teach them to others?
Is it about not repeating mistakes of the past but repeating its successes?
Is it about collecting the individual tacit knowledge of the organization and transient them into the organization’s wisdom?
Personally I think it all of the above and more.
So my question is do you apply “Learning from Experience” in your organization? If so, how do you do it?

PMO – Project Management Office
Learning Lessons from Lessons Learned
Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. During the last decade of last century, many companies had..

We really need to talk about knowledge..
November 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Crowne Plaza Reading
This event requires registration:
How do we know what it means to manage a project? In this APM Knowledge SIG Courageous Conversations event, Dr Jon Whitty and Dr Judy Payne invite you to challenge preconceptions about project management knowledge.
Project management knowledge. Knowledge about project management. What is it? Where is it? Who creates it? When is it needed? Why is it important? Where is it used? Who owns it? These are some of the most difficult questions to answer about project management knowledge.
This interactive and stimulating event will address these questions and explore how our preconceptions about knowledge affect the way we feel and act; the role of professional associations; and how knowledge about project management develops – or doesn’t.
Please don’t expect definitive answers. This event is one strand of a conversation that we hope will lead to new concepts, new language, and better understanding of the issues relating to project management knowledge. It’s our profession. We want to encourage a greater confidence in the APM community to talk freely and fearlessly about new ways forward. Are you brave enough to join in?
Labels: Body of Knowledge, project management, professional knowledge
Event Organizer: Judy Payne (Practitioner, consultant and reluctant academic specialising in collaborative working, knowledge management and learning)

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PM World Journal: Going Beyond Lessons Learned…

PM World Journal: Going Beyond Lessons Learned…  I like it.  David Pells is back as the Managing Editor for PM World Journal.  You can read the first Volume-Issue at

As you know I am passionate about lesson learned in the PM community so to have PM World back will only be a positive way forward to help us all share PM Knowledge.  I welcome the following comments from the first issue:

“ The new PMWJ also represents a new model for publishing P/PM articles and papers. Going beyond “lessons learned”, we want to aggressively promote publication as a way to capture lessons learned and good practices in P/PM and to share that knowledge with those who may need it most – students, young project managers, and those in project-based organizations, industries and emerging economies around the world. In many cases, those are the ones where better, faster and more efficient delivery of project results can positively impact thousands of human lives.

Knowledge sharing can take many forms, which is why we offer various categories of articles and papers in the new PMWJ – featured papers, advisory articles, commentaries, editorials, case studies, personal stories, news articles. Some new knowledge is based on serious research, or experience on actual programs and projects. New lessons learned or good practices grow from specific applications, the solving of specific problems or participating on successful teams.

Lessons Learned Reports are too often prepared for internal distribution, after which they disappear into company archives, files or book shelves. Where possible, please consider sharing those lessons learned, experiences and successful practices with others around the world. Few are likely to be direct competitors; many readers will be extremely grateful.”

I am encouraged and support the goals of PM World Journal:

  • to promote and support the creation of new program and project management (P/PM) knowledge;
  • to promote and support the sharing of that knowledge with individuals and organizations new to P/PM or where such knowledge is sorely needed;
  • to provide greater recognition and visibility for those who create new P/PM knowledge (authors);
  • to provide a robust, easily accessible library of global P/PM knowledge and information; and
  • to promote and support the use of modern P/PM for solving global problems.

I know I will be a regular visitor to this site and I plan to participate over my PhD research journey.

Cheers, Stephen


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