Lessons learned consists of many elements that should be collected throughout the project. The input may come from surveys, individual interviews, project meetings reports, and many others. At the end of the project, they all should be reviewed and updated.
It is a good practice to organize a dedicated lessons learned workshop at the end of the project. People participating in the workshop should have a different point of view, and be able to look analytically on the project.
If you want the lessons learned session to be effective, at the beginning all participants should agree on key rules of the meeting:
- Everybody should put off computer, phone and any other distracting devices
- Participants should be constructive and make this meeting a positive opportunity to learn and improve
- Criticism of the methods and and processes is possible and even desirable, but criticism of other people is prohibited
- Different points of view and opinions are something healthy and necessary
Lessons learned workshop agenda
The example of the meeting agenda may include the following:
As an introduction you can present a brief comparison of the project performance and then encourage participants to perform an analysis of the differences between the plan and its realization:
- Why plan differs from the actual state? Are the differences good or bad?
- What we should do to better plan next projects?
- What should we do to carry out the project according to plan?
Another idea is to prepare and send out in advance a project evaluation survey and analyze its results together with the particiants. This short brainstorming helps to put participants in the mood of analytical thinking about the project. When all minds are opened it’s time to go to the main topic.
Main topic: lessons learned
The core topic of the meeting is to identify things that most conributed to the success of the project and things that could have gone better.
You can use sticky notes to support this part, for example – give participants colorful sticky notes and ask them to indicate 3-5 positive and negative elements of the project. Then one person reads the cards and the topic is jointly analyzed.
You should ask WHY 5 times, divide a problem into prime factors, deny the assumptions, think of alternative scenarios – of course until discussions are constructive and can contribute to the future improvements. You should write down also all additional conclusions that arise during the meeting and could be valuable in the future.
Lessons learned workshop summary
At the end of the meeting you should summarize all lessons learned, check whether your conclusions are actionable and decide how to follow them up in the future. You should remember that your work has a sense only when somebody will make a use of it in future.