Monday, 17 December 2012

A nice set of definitions related to lesson-learning

Chinese character dictionaryOn Slide 7 of this interesting presentation, given by Geoff Cooper, a senior analyst at the Australian Centre for Army Lessons Learned, at the recent 8th International Lessons Learned Conference, we have a set of definitions, which are very useful.

They read as follows (my additions in brackets)

Observation. The basic building block [for learning] from a discrete perspective. 
  • Many are subjective in nature, but provide unique insights into human experience.
  • Need to contain sufficient context to allow correct interpretation and understanding.
  • Offer recommendations from the source
  • [they should be] Categorised to speed retrieval and analysis
Insight. The conclusion drawn from an identified pattern of observations pertaining to a common experience or theme.
  • Link differing perspectives and observations, where they exist.
  • Indicate recommendations, not direct actions,
  • Link solid data to assist decision making processes
  • As insights relay trends, they can be measures
Lesson. Incorporates an insight, but adds specific action and the appropriate technical authority.  
Lesson Learned. When a desired behaviour or effect is sustained, preferably without external influence.

What Geoff is describing is a typical military approach to lesson-learning, where a lessons team collects many observations from Army personnel, performs analysis, and identified the Insight and Lesson. As I pointed out in this post, this is different from the typical Engineering Project approach, where the project team compare observations, derive their own insight, and draft their own lesson.

The difference between the two approaches depends on the scale of the exercise. In the military model there can be hundreds of people who contribute observations, while in a project, it's usually a much smaller project team (in which case it makes sense to collect the observations and insights through discussion). If you are using the military model, these definitions will be very useful.

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