I came across an interesting article recently entitled "Enhancing Quality of Lessons Learned" by Lo and Fong.
The authors look at lessons learned, and how effective they are as a mechanism for transferring knowledge, and come out with the following areas where particular attention needs to paid when recording lessons. These are
- The Meta-Knowledge - the way in which the lesson is tagged and labelled (including the organisational unit affected, the applicability, and the importance of the lesson)
- Taking into account the needs of the users/learners
- Comprehensibility and clarity of the lesson (selecting words that are unambiguous, and free of jargon)
- The validity of the reasoning behind the lesson - the "Why" behind the lesson.
The authors point particularly to the last issue, and say the following
"Since curiosity is a good motivator for learning, knowing the reasons why past practices succeeded or failed is essential for encouraging users to gain and share knowledge that contributes to organizational learning. It is argued that Lessons Learned should provide the rationales behind the lessons, fostering users’ reflection and extension of the application of lessons to other situations".
In my Lessons Learned handbook, I recommend a structure for lessons, part of which is to include the root cause analysis behind the lesson. This shows the reasoning that takes you from an observation of what happens, through an analysis of why it happened, to the lesson that is abstracted. That root cause analysis should be presented as part of the lesson, so that the reader/learner can understand the lesson in its entirety, and the reasoning behind it.