Monday, 23 April 2012


Three maturity levels of a lesson-learning program


Three generationsI blogged a few weeks ago on the three stages of lesson learning. I thought I would amplify these three stages.

We recognise three maturity levels in the way in which an organisation addresses lessons learned, and the lessons-based learning component of knowledge management. Each organisation seems to discover these three changes for themselves, although all to many lessons learned programs get stuck at level 1.

The stages are as follows,

1. Reactive capture
2. Reactive change
3. Proactive change.

Stage 1  is to reactively capture lessons at the end of projects, and document them so that others can learn. Lessons are stored somewhere, and people need to find and read the lesson in order to access the knowledge. There are sub-stages or sub-levels of maturity in stage 1, which include
1a) Ad-hoc capture of lessons, often by the project leader, documenting them and storing them in project files with no quality control or validation step. Lessons must therefore be sought by reading project reports, or browsing project files structures
1b)Structured capture of lessons, through lessons identification meetings such as retrospects, documenting and storing the lessons in project files with no quality control or validation step.
1c) Structured capture of lessons, through lessons identification meetings such as retrospects, documenting and storing the lessons in a company-wide system such as a lessons database or a wiki. This often includes a validation step.
1d) Structured capture of lessons, through lessons identification meetings such as retrospects, documenting and storing the lessons in a company-wide system with auto-notification, so that people can self-nominate to receive specific lessons.
Stage 2 is to reactively capture lessons at the end of projects, document them, and as a result make changes to company procedures and practices so that the lessons are embedded into practice. Here people do not need to read the lesson to access the knowledge, they just need to follow the practice. Again, there are sub-stages or sub-levels of maturity in stage 2, which include
2a) Lessons are automatically forwarded to the relevant expert for information, with the expectation that they will review them and incorporate them into practice.
2b) Lessons include assigned actions for the relevant expert, and are forwarded to the expert for action
2c) Lessons include assigned actions for the relevant expert, and are forwarded to the expert for action. These actions are tracked and reported.

Stage 3  is to proactively hunt lessons from wherever they can be found, and make changes to company procedures and practices so that the lessons are embedded into practice.  There are not enough organisations at stage 3 to recognise sub-stages, but there are some ways in which Stage 3 can operate
3a) Senior managers can identify priority learning areas for the organisation. Projects are given learning objectives - objectives for gathering knowledge and lessons on behalf of the organisation. These may be written into project knowledge management plans. 3b) Learning teams may analyse lessons over a period of months or years to look for the common themes and the underlying trends - the weak signals that operational lessons may mask.
3c) Organisations may deploy specific learning resources (Learning Engineers, Project Historians, etc) into projects or activity, in order to pick up specific learning for the organisation.
 Lesson-learning can be a very powerful way for an organisation to learn, change and adapt, but only if it is approached in a mature way. Level 1, to be honest, will not add much value. If you aspire to be a learning organisation, set your sights at levels 2 or 3.

No comments:

Blog Archive