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, NotionsCapital.com 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 (http://www.pmlessonslearned.info)

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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Lessons Learned Process…another interesting discussion thread…

PM Community (Linkedin) Wayne asked the question ‘Most of us know how to conduct Lessons Learned, but how many of us actually have an organizational process for conducting Lessons Learned. I’m looking for some examples of documented processes. It may seem like conducting LL is easy, just like falling off a bike, but in my experience I’ve seen some very effective methods and some that just allow the lessons to be observed and then re-experienced. Or the lesson may be handled through tribal knowledge with no artifact to fall back on. So if you’ve got a documented process that your organization uses and can share it, I’d be very interested in seeing what you’ve got.’

To date 37 responses, all very interesting and continues to suggest that the open public discussions highlight the significance of project management, knowledge management and the lessons learned practice. As you know my research to date supports the premise that the project management lessons learned processes today can largely be considered incomplete and misunderstood.

SLLCK_psml

I am focussed on exploring whether a systemic lessons learned and captured knowledge (SLLCK) model can influence the dissemination and application of project management lessons learned between the project team and the organisation. The study suggests that by reconceptualising lessons learned, the SLLCK model can influence the dissemination and application of project management lessons learned. I look forward to continuing with the study over the next few years and sharing the results with the Linkedin pm communities.

All the best, Stephen


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FEMA’s Lessons Learned

Another example of an application of Lessons Learned….to the collection of public available reports.

FEMA’s Implementation of the Remedial Action Management Program report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) 19 Jan 2011.
Executive Summary
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Remedial Action Management Program is intended to: (1) identify operational and programmatic issues, lessons learned, and best practices encountered during federal disaster response and recovery operations and exercises; (2) manage the subsequent remediation of issues; and (3) distribute lessons learned and best practices. Our audit objective was to determine to what extent FEMA has implemented the Program to identify and distribute lessons learned and best practices to improve its incident management operations. FEMA needs to improve its implementation of the Remedial Action Management Program to identify lessons learned and best practices. Specifically, FEMA officials should: (1) conduct an after-action review for every disaster to identify lessons learned and best practices; and (2) develop instructions or examples on how to develop clear and concise lesson learned and best practice statements. Program officials distributed lessons learned and best practices to more personnel than what was required by program policy. However, distribution was still limited to the program’s database users, averaging 70 users. Program officials told us that those users served as organizational points of contact and disseminated the information to others. In May 2010, FEMA lost access to program data, including lessons learned and best practices, when the server which housed the program’s database failed. In November 2010, program officials informed us that they were able to recover all of the data; however, the software necessary to read the data has not been restored. Therefore, historical data on lessons learned and best practices that was contained in the program’s database is not available to all FEMA personnel. We are making six recommendations that, when implemented, should improve FEMA’s efforts to identify and distribute lessons learned and best practices.

 


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(PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition draft – Lesson Learned comment accepted

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition draft ‘lesson learned comment accepted with modification’.

The Draft ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition’ is currently open for comments. I have made a couple of reccomendations (refer posted on ).

1) General comment for ‘lessons learned’. I am interested in understanding why 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 in organisations. Lessons learned is only one particular element that can be used to share and use project knowledge.  …Your feedback would be most welcome.
2) Section: 9.1.1.4 Organizational Process Assets needs to also include ‘Lessons learned from previous projects’

Today feedback was received from PMI.
No. 1 was rejected as ”Recommendation is prescriptive rather than descriptive”…I am ok with this for the present moment. We need to continue working on finding a way to change PMBOK to reflect better Lessons Learned practice. Will leave this for my PhD challenge.

No. 2 was Accepted With Modification…We agree with your basic recommendation. We have modified the sentence and believe that the following re-write addresses your comment: “…Lessons learned on organizational structures that have worked in previous projects; and…”.   Happy with the outcome..one lessons learned improvement.

Until next time…

Regards, Stephen


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Lessons Learned 2.0 – When and how to capture lessons learned

All, another good post on the apm site. Lessons Learned 2.0 – When and how to capture lessons learned. I have just made a few comments, hopefully this may encourage some more feedback 🙂

Owain: When and how to capture lessons learned (often known more as Lessons Identified) >>> There are many KM methods one can use…(peer assist, scoping, action learning, after action reviews, CoPs, Project reviews, LL ?, Learning diaries, group brainstorming, knowledge cafe, knowledge jam, retrospect’s, post project reviews, knowledge histories, storytelling, case studies, reflection….the list goes on)  and the timing should be from Day 1, then weekly, fortnightly or Monthly at regular meetings…

How and when to share lessons learned > http://www.invictaprojects.com.au/pmlessonslearnedblog/?p=299

Adoption – Issues, motivation and ways to gain adoption>>>These are the tricky ones…this is where culture, social and systems block the process.

patw: >>> Your on the mark with a KM solution… Not quite sure on the KM system front?… however my research to date in the KM space would say KM is broken in many aspects as much as Lessons Learned is broken. On the term ‘lessons Learned’ (I really don’t like this label – can we call it something else?) I do believe we should be looking at replacing the ‘Lessons Learned’ terms in PMBOK and PRINCE 2 etc with KM terms, as there are many other KM methods/ways we can share our learning’s.

james: >>> The behavioral issue you mention is very much from my perspective the social/culture factors that block the process.  I too have had an interesting background with best (good) practice, I have seen the best and worst of this approach…in summary many PMs do not want to follow others best practice? . why? We just like repeating the mistakes of others? More on this topic in the months to come on http://www.pmlessonslearned.info

Regards, Stephen

 

 


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A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition draft comments

The Draft ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition’ is currently open for comments. I have made a couple of reccomendations.

1) General comment for ‘lessons learned’. I am interested in understanding why 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 in organisations. Lessons learned is only one particular element that can be used to share and use project knowledge.  …Your feedback would be most welcome.

2) Section: 9.1.1.4 Organizational Process Assets needs to also include ‘Lessons learned from previous projects’

As I read more over the next few weeks, more feedback will be provided.

Regards, Stephen


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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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PM Lessons Learned is broken

A recent report from the Victorian Ombudsman (Brouwer 2011), finds that despite all the research, previous Ombudsman and Auditor-General reports, ‘…there are few signs that any lessons have been learnt in the public sector. A new and more disciplined approach is required if the government is to avoid being faced with continuing cost overruns and failures to deliver.’ The report highlights the difficulties and inconsistencies in ICT procurement with the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office stating ‘…Government agencies tend to operate independently and there is difficulty in capturing and implementing learnings from ICT projects.’ What we see here is not un-common across the public and private sectors; it is just that the reporting of the public sector problems is open to the public via government reports.

Source: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com reports.

The Project Management Institute (2008) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide identifies the importance in collecting and documenting lessons learned, and implementing process improvements. The PMBOK knowledge areas reference the lessons learned process. However in practice it rarely happens and does not work well (Atkinson, Crawford & Ward 2006; Keegan & Turner 2001; Kerzner 2009; Milton 2010; Schindler & Eppler. 2003; Williams 2008; Wysocki 2004, 2009).

Milton (2010) has found that 80 per cent of 74 organisations that attempt lessons learned, 60 per cent are dissatisfied. Williams (2007) found that 62.4 per cent of 522 project practitioner responses had a process for learning lessons and of those only 11.7 per cent followed the process.

The project management PM World Today recently posted an editorial on Lessons Learned but Knowledge Lost (Pells 2011). In response Wideman (2011, p.1) a recognised 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.’ This open discussion again highlights the significance of project management, knowledge management and the lessons learned process and the impact that technology, learning, process and people factors have on the problem.

So is the PM Lessons Learned process broken?

For another understanding of what is broken, you may enjoy the Seth Godin talk on ‘This is broken’


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PM Lessons Learned Study

To the PM and KM world, I am currently close to completing (June 2012) my Masters Project Management (research). I have a strong interest in PM Lessons Learned. Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed learning about the KM World.

My final project/thesis will be ‘Exploring factors that impact knowledge management dissemination of project management lessons learned’.

The focus of this study will be to understand why the majority of projects do not disseminate lessons learned to organisations. Knowledge and project management literature suggests that the lessons learned process in practice rarely happens and does not work well and fails to deliver the intended results. The study will address the significant factors that impact the dissemination of project management lessons between the project team and the organisation. The literature review will focus on the areas of: knowledge; knowledge management; knowledge conversion; learning; organisational learning; lessons learned practices; and culture. So far, the literature review suggests there is limited research on how knowledge management, learning and culture impacts project management and project temporary organisations.

A review of the literature highlights project management literature gaps around people, learning, technology and process. The people factor is the most likely to negatively influence the dissemination of lessons learned in organisations. A conceptual lessons learned model has been derived and based on a swiss cheese model where the variables people, learning, technology and process need to align and be effective to disseminate lessons learned.

By undertaking this study it is expected that a better understanding of the significant project technology, learning, process and people factors will be established. This will assist in the dissemination of the Project Management lessons learned practice being improved. The findings will also contribute to the project management literature and provide an opportunity to improve project knowledge sharing ensuring projects achieve success.

I would be interested to know some of your thoughts on the Project Management world around ‘lessons learned’?

Stephen


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