O’Dell and Hubert (2011, p.69) stated that the lessons learned approach typically focuses on a few key questions:
‘What was supposed to happen?
What actually happened?
Why was there a difference or variation?
Who else needs to know this information?’
The major challenge is to then get employees to participate and reuse the captured knowledge (Milton 2010; O’Dell, Grayson & Essaides 1998; O’Dell & Hubert 2011).
Literature on the lessons learned process model provides many variations on essentially three process steps (Williams 2007). The three components for an effective lessons learned process model are; creating, dissemination/transferring and application. Creating/identifying the knowledge consists of observing, collecting, and understanding the facts and information. A key element of this phase is to document the findings and provide sufficient information regarding the situation, action taken, results observed and recommendations. The next phase provides for the dissemination of information through codification, verification, storage, sharing for easy access and transferring knowledge to organisational members, improvements to standard processes and procedures to reflect changes in identified best practices. The final element is where we adapt and use knowledge (Bresnen et al. 2003; Bresnen, Goussevskaia & Swan 2004; Cowles 2004; Liebowitz & Megbolugbe 2003; O’Dell & Grayson 1997; Schindler & Eppler. 2003; Williams 2008).
Literature on knowledge identification and creation mention several ways project temporary organisations or individuals reflect on their experiences. Common techniques are: lessons learned sessions; after action reviews; project debriefings; close out meetings; post project appraisals/reviews; case study exercises; project reviews; project histories; project health checks; and project audits (Anbari, Carayannis & Voetsch 2008; Bakker et al. 2010; Busby 1999; Koners 2005; Maqsood, Walker & Finegan 2004; Reich, Gemino & Sauer 2008; Schindler & Eppler. 2003; Von Zedtwitz 2002; Williams 2007). Each method has many different features and characteristics however they all essentially capture-disseminate-apply knowledge.
Literature on knowledge disseminating and transfer often refers to codification, verification, storing, searching, retrieving, knowledge sharing and training (Boh, Wai Fong 2007; Cowles 2004; Firestone & McElroy 2003; O’Dell, Grayson & Essaides 1998; O’Dell & Hubert 2011; Schindler & Eppler. 2003; Williams 2007). Schindler and Eppler (2003) reports that if projects do not frequently disseminate their experiences, the project knowledge could be forgotten by the end of the project. The literature provides many technology ways of storing and recording the knowledge, the key is to identify what works for an organisation and constantly monitor, update and keep it current and relevant (Williams 2007, 2008). Technology is a critical element to knowledge dissemination. Quite often technology is blamed for failure in knowledge dissemination (Williams 2007). Most organisations maintain their lessons learned in house for competitive advantage, although some organisations make their lessons learned available to the public (Basili et al. 2002; Li 2001, 2002; Madden 1996; NASA 2011).
A number of methods are used during this phase to disseminate knowledge. Two methods of interest in literature are 1) process methods and 2) social based methods. Process based methodologies are those lessons learned where the knowledge is reflected in an organisations policies, processes and procedures. If projects follow the process then the chance of mistakes being repeated should be minimised (Keegan & Turner 2001; Midha 2005; O’Dell & Grayson 1997; O’Dell, Grayson & Essaides 1998; Schindler & Eppler. 2003; Williams 2007). Social based methodologies are those lessons learned that are not easy to break up and transfer knowledge from one person to another (Bresnen et al. 2003; Fernie et al. 2003). Fernie et al. (2003) argue that knowledge sharing is best performed through the communication of individuals. Two social-based processes are networking and mentoring (Bresnen et al. 2003; Huang & Newell 2003). A critical component of success for social methods is to ensure that an organisation’s culture and environment provide the support (Hoegl, Parboteeah & Munson. 2003).
Knowledge dissemination is an important step in the process, and the work of Dixon (2000) helps to understand different strategies when dealing with the transfer of tacit or explicit knowledge. Dixon identifies five types of knowledge dissemination strategies: Serial Transfer, Near Transfer, Far Transfer, Strategic Transfer and Expert Transfer (Dixon 2000; O’Dell et al. 2004).
Literature reviews on knowledge application and use often states that a significant effort, commitment, understanding of people behaviour is required for both the organisation and individuals, as this is the area where the process typically breaks down and fails (Duhon & Elias 2008; Keegan & Turner 2001; Williams 2007, 2008).
What are your thoughts on Lessons Learned models?
Have I missed something?
The next post will focus on culture around Lessons Learned.