PMLLblog summary of Lessons Learned Practices

O’Dell (2011, p. 68) states that the KM solution ‘…is to provide approaches to aid collective memory and capture lessons, experiences, and practices.’ The lessons learned practice is also commonly known as; after action reviews, project milestone reviews, post-mortems, event project debriefs, project close-out and community of practice events (Busby 1999; O’Dell & Hubert 2011; Schindler & Eppler. 2003). The lessons learned practice is called out in various project management guides, standards, methodologies and maturity models. Lindner and Wald (2010) note a gap in project management practice as there is a need for more research in understanding the role knowledge management lessons learned has with project management methodologies.

Reich and Wee (2006) report an extensive review of how knowledge management practices are embedded within the 3rd edition PMBOK Guide (Project Management Institute 2004). Table 1 highlights the changes over the last 14 years of how the term lessons learned has been referenced and used with all versions (up to 4th edition) of the PMBOK Guide. Reich and Wee suggest that the PMBOK Guide is an explicit knowledge document with a focus on creating and using explicit knowledge. The PMBOK guide is process focused on what and how to do it. There is no focus on the why to do a process. Reich and Wee also provide alignment of the PMBOK Guide with the SECI model and note that there is strong emphasis on externalisation and combination elements. Reich and Wee (2006, p. 24) recommend that the PMBOK Guide should be ‘…transformed into a true knowledge guide – both imparting and recognizing the knowledge needed to complete projects successfully.’ The Project Management Institute’s OPM3 Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (Project Management Institute 2008b), references lessons learned however there is less guidance than what is provided in PMBOK Guide (Project Management Institute 2008a).

The Office of Government Commerce PRINCE2 OGC (2009, p. 12) 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 for recording lessons learned (lessons learned log) and reporting on them (lessons learned report).

The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) (Chrissis, Konrad & Shrum 2003) model provides for best practice organisational process improvement. Process improvement proposals and process lessons learned are key work products and sub-processes. Midha (2005) discusses the benefits of CMMI and identifies the classic approach of collecting and translating key lessons into processes. Von Zedtwitz (2002) developed a capability model for post-project reviews based on the standard five-stage capability model.

Milton (2010) and O’Dell and Hubert (2011) both reported the importance of a governance system with visible senior management support and KM leadership. The lessons learned process and activities also need monitoring through the provision of metrics and reporting for the process to be successful (Latha, Suresh & Mahesh 2010; Milton 2010; O’Dell & Hubert 2011).

What are your thoughts on Lessons Learned practices?

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The next post will focus on Lessons Learned models.


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