In this blog post I want to contrast two software systems, the Lessons Database, and the Lessons Management System..
There are two types of Lessons Learned approaches, which you could differentiate as "Lessons for Information" and "Lessons for Action".
These represent maturity levels 1 and 2 from my three level categorisation, and can be described as follows.
"Lessons for Information" is where lessons re captured and put in reports, or in a database, in that hope that people will look for them, read them, and assimilate them. "Lessons for Action" is where lessons are used to drive change and improvement to processes, procedures, etc.
"Lessons for Information" is supported by a Lessons Database, "Lessons for Action" by a Lessons Management System. Let's contrast the two.
- In a Lessons Database, the database is the final home of the lessons. In a Lessons Management System, the final home of lessons is considered to be the complied knowledge of the organisation, which may be procedures, doctrine, guidance, best practices, wikis, etc.
- In a Lessons Database, lessons reach their reader through search. In a Lessons Management System, lessons are pro-actively routed to those who need to see them and to take action.
- In a Lessons Database, lessons accumulate over time (this was the problem with my first Lessons system in the 90s - it got clogged up over time with thousands of lessons, until people stopped looking). In a Lessons Management System, lessons are archived once they have been embedded into process and procedure, and the only live content is the set of lessons currently under review.
- In a Lessons Database, there may be duplicate lessons, out of date lessons, or contradictory lessons. Through the use of a Lessons Management System, these have all been resolved during the incorporation into guidance.
- In a Lessons Database, there are limited options for metricating the process. You can measure how many lessons are in the system, but that's about it (unless you capture data on re-use). Through the use of a Lessons Management System, you can track lessons through to action, and can measure whether they are being embedded into process, you can see where they are being held up, and by whom.
Lessons management is the way to go. Lesson databases really do not work in the long term.