Monday 9 December 2013

Lessons Learned Database v Lessons Management System

Juggling lessons 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  • In a Lessons Database, there may be duplicate lessons, out of date lessons, or contradictory lessons.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.


Danny said...

Hi Nick,

Thanks for the interesting blog!

At the moment we (projectteam) are designing a lessons database / management system within the division/organization I work for. As I do not have any experience and base choices on cases, needs and desires, I would very much like to get your experienced view on how to organize a lessons learned system.

Could you make some time to help me out? Me and my team would appreciate it big time!

Kind regards,

Danny (Netherlands)

PS If you are willing we could chat via skype (skypename: lldanny)

Nick Milton said...

Sure Danny - email me at nick dot milton (at) knoco dot com and we can maybe set up a skype for tomorrow afternoon

Thai man said...

Thank you Nick for the blog.
I am preparing a conceptual LL management for our engineering and construction project management, (i am not a programming expert) your blog gives me the ideas of the differences in LL Data (Lesson repository) and LL management system.

Not really sure how many "search" layers to be provided in the system to ease the user convenience to narrow the relevant LL.
I am also thinking of adding monitoring function to see the statistic of user access frequency and lesson that have been viewed.

Best regards
Khang (Thailand)

Nick Milton said...

Hi Khang

if you get in touch directly, I can arrange an online demo of our lessons management software so you can see how these items work in practice. Send me an email at nick dot milton at knoco dot com

Unknown said...

Hi Nick! Thank you very much for this interesting article.
I'm working in my Master's final assignment, which will be about Lessons Learned and Best Practices. I want to build conceptually a system that engage project teams to feed the system, and simultaneusly, give analisys and measurements that could be useful for the organization.

It would be fantastic if you have time to get in contact with you to see how your software works in practice and learn from your experience. My skype is martalspeak but let me know which is your preferred system to get in contact.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Nick Milton said...

Hi Marta

You may want to get hold of my book "The Lessons Learned handbook" which covers the entire topic of lesson learning

Unknown said...

Many thanks Nick, I will read it =)

Unknown said...

Hi Nick,

Following your advice, I have bought it and I've just finish of reading it. Really an useful and interesting book, congratulations!

I have read in your book Chapter 12: "A large multionational company, |...], will need more sophisticated systems, with custom buit technology and well-defined processes". I would like to understand better what could be the cost of building those system for a large company. Could you direct me or advice me where can I find a stimation of inversion needed?. In the other hand, if I'd like to use an existing lesson learning system, what would be your recommendation? Thinking in a company similar to Mars, Inc...

Many thanks in advance!

Nick Milton said...

Hi Marta

Our sister company, LessonLearner, markets just such a software.

Send me an email at nick . milton @ knoco . com and I can give you more details

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