Friday, 20 December 2013

Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost

A Lesson is an Investment

It might take a project team of 10 people, one day to create, through facilitated discussion, ten high-quality lessons. So each of these takes one man-day to create; say £500 - plus some write-up time - lets say £1000 per lesson to choose a nice round number.

However that lesson is encapsulated knowledge which, if re-used, may save man-months of wasted time and effort in the future, or tens of thousands of pounds of wasted cost. The project team have invested their time to deliver future ten-fold or hundred-fold return on that investment.

So, ladies and gentlemen; what do we do with our investments?

Do we hide them in a hole and never look at them again? Or do we track them until the time and situation is right to realise them?

Unfortunately, a common approach to lessons is to record them in a report, or on a spreadsheet, then put them into project files, and hide them in the online filing system. I head a report a couple of weeks ago about a team that created some hugely valuable lessons, and stored them in security-controlled project files to which no other project was allowed access!

That's not Lessons Learned; that's Lessons Lost.

That's like the last scene in Indiana Jones, when the Ark of the Covenant is put in a crate, and hidden in a vast warehouse of identical crates.

What we should do with investments, is put them in a managed portfolio, and we track them, until we find the opportunity to realise their value.

What we should do with lessons, is put them in a Lessons Management System, and track them, until we find the opportunity to reuse them or to embed them into process and procedure.

That's Lessons Learned; rather than Lessons Lost.

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