Wednesday, 25 November 2015

3 levels of lesson learning

In a large organisation, lesson-learning can happen at multiple levels. 


In global oil and gas companies for example, there are often three levels

  • Firstly team learning uses After Action Review to learn within project teams. Discussions take place within the team, and any changes are to team processes. Lessons are documented in simple form, perhaps in Excel spreadsheets.
  • A more complex form of learning is learning from one project to another, using facilitated lessons-identification meetings. Lessons are collected, actions are assigned, and changes made to organizational process. Lessons are documented in lesson management systems.
  • Finally in analyses of major incidents, an investigation team is tasked with collecting observations, the insights, the learnings, and even the recommendations for action. Lessons are documented in evaluation reports.
In each case, and at each scale, the learning cycle is similar.

Lessons are identified through discussion and investigation, and pass through a series of stages, from context to observation to insight to lesson. If the lesson is to be truly learned (in other words, embedded into new ways of working), then there are further stages.  
 The lesson must be documented and validated, it must lead to assigned actions, those actions must be disseminated to the correct people through a lessons management system, the appropriate actions must be taken, and the lessons closed.

However the scale varies - from one project team, to multiple project teams, to the whole organisation, and as the scale changes, so does the rigour of, and the investment in, the learning process.

The table below shows how the learning stages and steps are applied at each of the three levels.

Step/Stage
Within a team
Between projects
Major Investigation
1.     Context
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect, led by the facilitator
Investigated by the incident investigation team
2.     Observation
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator
Collected by the incident investigation team
3.     Insight
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator
Analyzed by the incident investigation team
4.     Lesson
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator
Recommendations made by the incident investigation team
5.     Documented lesson
Either not documented, or documented within a lessons log
Documented within a lesson management system by the facilitator
Documented as the incident investigation report
6.     Assigned action
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Either discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator, or discussed after the facilitator by senior staff
Discussed and agreed by senior management
7.     Validated lesson/action
Validated within the team and by the team leader at the After Action Review
Validated a) within the lessons management system, or b) by senior staff
Discussed and agreed by senior management
8.     Distributed/notified lesson/action
Action assigned using existing team processes such as action log
Use of a lessons management system
Use of a system such as the ‘strategic implementation planning’ tool
9.     Taken action/change
Action taken by team member
Action taken a) by other teams, or b) by company authorities such as Subject Matter Experts
Action taken by company authorities
10.  Completed lesson
Action closed in action log
Actions tracked and lessons closed in lesson management system
Actions tracked and lessons closed by central team.
Monitor, review, report
Monitor through routine team action monitoring
Statistics created and reported from the lessons management system
Lesson closure reported by central team.

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