I was looking at a set of slides today for a project - a 5 month project involving a large number of people. The slideset included an agenda for the final review meeting, and I was pleased to see that they had included a session on lessons learned.
Then I looked a little closer, and noticed that this section was sheduled for 15 minutes brainstorming, and 30 minutes discussion.
Well guys, I thought - you're not going to get anything of value in 45 minutes.
For a decent sized project like this one, I generally allow 20 minutes or more per person when deciding how much time to invest on discussing lessons (in a Retrospect, for example). So say there were 12 people in the room, that's 4 hours or more. 15 people would be 5 hours or more. I would allow even longer for a particularly complex project.
You need to identify, rank and group the learning points - there's your 45 minutes gone already. Then for each one you have to analyse
- what actually happened
- the root causes behind what actually happened
- what you are going to change as a result
- and the actions that arise.
If you only have 45 minutes available - don't even bother to try. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well, and it's worth taking the time. The corollary to this is that if you don't spend the time and don't do it well, people get the message that it's not worth doing at all. If you don't have the time to do your learning well, then don't do it at all - you will only devalue the entire process.
Invest the time. Do a Proper Job.