Thursday, 15 August 2013
If you read through a lessons learned database from a British, US or Australian organisation, you get the feeling that projects never go right. The database will be full of lessons from failure, with almost no success-based lessons.
If you read through a lessons learned database from a Middle Eastern or Far Eastern organisation, you get the feeling that projects never go wrong. The database will be full of lessons from success, with almost no failure-based lessons.
OK, the statements above are generalisations and your particular company may differ, but there is a reality behind them representing two different biases; in the first case, the bias against "showing off to your peers"; in the second case, the bias against "appearing to have failed in front of your manager".
In reality, of course, we need to learn from both success and failure, particularity when these are unexpected. We need to seize on, and repeat, the breakthroughs, and map out and eliminate the pitfalls.
As far as the user of the lessons is concerned, they don't actually care whether the lesson came from success or failure, so long as
a) it is well written,
b) they trust the provenance, and
c) it helps them deliver their own project better, cheaper, faster.
In both the case of failure and success, the lesson will be written in the same way; a set of recommendations and advice, supported by context (in the form of a story) which helps them internalise the lesson.