When a project is finished, you celebrate, right? Not so fast—you might not be finished with your project if you haven’t yet prepared a lessons learned document. If you’re studying for your PMP certification, you’ll want to understand why preparing a lessons learned document is important.

Read more: What is Project Management?

By collecting and publishing lessons the team learned while completing the previous project, your organization as a whole can benefit. You can help reduce the odds of other teams making your same mistakes, and provide insights into how various processes and procedures can be improved.

In this article, we will examine some of the best practices in preparing a lessons learned document along with how they can help an organization in improving its project performance.

Guide to Lessons Learned in Project Management

Most project managers know the value of documenting lessons learned and how it benefits their teams, organizations, and current and future projects. Lessons learned are the information that has been recorded and reflects both the successful and unsuccessful aspects of a project.

Sharing lessons learned among project team members enables an organization to benefit from organizational best practices while preventing them from making the same mistakes again.

What Are Lessons Learned in Project Management?

Project effort is undertaken to produce something fresh and original. Working on a project encourages a tone of invention, experimentation, and investigation in search of more effective methods. Even if every project is different, it is crucial to apply all the knowledge and lessons gained from earlier initiatives to improve the current project's efficiency.

Making mistakes is commonplace, but hiding them is illegal and repeating them is sinful. Effectively capturing all new lessons gained and making sure that they are applied throughout the business in all current and future projects will help the teams avoid making the same mistakes and make the most of all their positive experiences.

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What Is the Purpose of Lessons Learned?

Lessons learned as a practice cover the procedures required for lesson identification, archiving, validating, and disseminating. Utilizing and incorporating those processes entails identifying applicable lessons learned, documenting lessons learned, archiving lessons learned, distributing lessons learned to the appropriate personnel, identifying the actions that will be taken as a result of the lesson learned, and monitoring the situation to make sure the right actions were taken.

Lessons Learned Process in Project Management

Organizations handle lessons learnt using the five-step process outlined below:

  • Recognize

The first stage is to recognize and compile the fresh learning discovered. All pertinent project stakeholders are involved in the collection of lessons learnt. Stakeholders participate in workshops to share lessons learnt. The main goal is to understand what went well, what didn't, and what can be done better. Future initiatives will benefit from the recommendations that are identified.

  • Document

All of these fresh teachings must be formally recorded. And all pertinent stakeholders inside the organization must be informed of these.

  • Examine

Experts examine all of these new lessons learnt to determine the best locations in which to apply them. The newly discovered lessons must be recorded as suggestions for certain applications so that team members can easily pick up such knowledge.

  • Store

It is equally crucial to use technologies to store all of this knowledge so that the entire business may easily access it. Establishing and maintaining a repository for all of this knowledge is necessary.

  • Recover

The knowledge and lessons learned must be used in ongoing projects.

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What Is a Lessons Learned Document?

Lessons learned are the information that has been recorded and reflects both the successful and unsuccessful aspects of a project. They stand for the organization's dedication to excellent project management and the project manager's chance to gain knowledge from others' real-world experiences. However, we are all at different stages of lessons learned. For example, some of us don't consistently record lessons learned since there isn't a specific mechanism in place for doing so. Alternatively, we record lessons learnt after a project and do nothing with them. Or alternatively, we record lessons learned and examine them before beginning new initiatives, but we don't produce analytics for the frequency of keywords appearing in successful or unsuccessful projects.

How to Document Lessons Learned?

Lessons learnt should be recorded and then communicated to project stakeholders. Depending on the audience, many sorts of reports can be created. The information gathered at the lessons learned session and any extra comments from participants who could not attend are included in the detailed lessons learned report. All participants should receive a copy of the thorough lessons learned report from the facilitator and have the opportunity to comment on its accuracy. Even if they did not participate in the lessons learned session, the whole project team should receive a copy of the report once it is finished. The final report needs to be kept with the other project records.

The facilitator should prepare a summary for leadership. An overview of the lessons learned process, a list of the project's strengths—what worked well—project weaknesses—what didn't—and recommendations—what needs to change—should all be included in this report. If the leadership needs further information, it can be made available or given as an attachment.

MidProject Survey Lessons Learned

Everyone who participated in the survey had full access to our blogs and could see every detail of all we had done up to that point. This was done so that they could respond to the queries knowing that they had seen everything we had done so far, we spoke with assurance. The person present as we weren't, even if the River ice way answered with generosity: The responses from this person were also anonymous. The poll received four responses. Each survey respondent met the qualifications to be our target market.

How to Write a Lessons Learned Report in Project Management?

When composing a report, take into account the following:

  • Identify the report's target audience. Is this report intended for project team members or stakeholders? Reports from team members will be more concerned with the project's daily activities, whereas reports from stakeholders will emphasize the project's overall goals.
  • Determine the takeaways from your text that matter to your audience.
  • Sort your survey replies and input them into the many report types they pertain to. There could be multiple types of reports based on a lot of responses.
  • Describe the key takeaways. Make suggestions for enhancing the procedures. Be sure to note the positive aspects of the event.
  • Share and keep the report. For storage and usage in upcoming projects, make a folder in the cloud or on a shared drive.

How to Share Lessons Learned?

The best method to communicate your findings is to write customized reports for various degrees of interaction. You should create a lessons learned report to share your group's results with a specific audience.

  • Providing Stakeholders with: The bigger picture of a project should be visible to stakeholders. They'll be curious in factors like your project's alignment with other industry objectives, fiscal considerations, profit margins, and long-term deadlines.
  • What to Give Team Members: Team members are curious about how a project is carried out on a daily basis. Give them a report that places a focus on each person's deadlines (both met and missed), the team's cohesiveness and communication, and the project's overall performance. Be sure to also point out their accomplishments.
  • Reports should be kept in a central repository. Reports should be kept in a completely accessible database, such as a shared drive or cloud storage, so that various company employees can consult them whenever necessary.
  • Make a list of the project's lessons: Without going into great detail, put your findings in a general overview. A larger audience can be informed about this list, possibly via email or a workplace newsletter.

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What Are Examples of Lessons Learned in a Project?

Essentially, the lessons learned process consists of identifying, documenting, analyzing, storing, and retrieving steps to assist project teams in successfully managing current and future projects.

Every completed project, whether successful or not, provides experience to those who worked on it. These lessons can be general or task-specific. Examples of lessons learned for various levels of an organization are provided below.

Lessons Learned Examples for Project Managers:

  • Assist Your Team: Appropriately delegate tasks and set realistic deadlines. Create an environment that promotes collaboration.
  • Communicate clearly: Check in with the team frequently and keep lines of communication open. Make it clear what you expect.
  • Give frequent praise: Let your team know when they do something well. Don't forget to reward yourself for your accomplishments as well.

Examples of Team Member Lessons Learned:

  • Seek Advice: Seek advice from your leaders and teammates.
  • Check in Frequently: Communicate effectively with all levels of project involvement and provide regular updates to your manager(s).
  • Improve Your Work: Use feedback to help you improve. This will allow you to learn from your mistakes and build on your successes.

Examples of Company Leadership Lessons Learned:

  • Outline the Big Picture: Define your expectations clearly. Budget and time constraints should be considered early in the project's lifecycle.
  • Protect Against Risk: Examine high-risk areas. Attempt to avoid large-scale delays.
  • Educate Your Team: Use your ongoing experience (as well as the experience of those around you) to improve processes at all levels.

Why Are Lessons Learned Important in Project Management?

Having the lessons learned documented and shared throughout the organization aids in the avoidance and reduction of failure. It also contributes to the development of best practices that can be implemented in future endeavors.

Conducting lessons learned sessions also aids in the development of trust among team members by allowing them to share their own perspectives on what went right and wrong during the project, making them feel more involved and encouraging them to be more supportive of the project management process.

Finally, lessons learned can have a real impact on company processes and team operations.

Benefits of Lessons Learned in Project Management

You can capitalize on your successes and learn from your mistakes by identifying lessons learned. Other advantages of project management lessons include the following:

  • Learn from Experience: Build on your past successes while avoiding mistakes. Make a note of everything you learn in real-time, so you don't forget anything.
  • Identify Inefficient Processes: Eliminate redundant processes and streamline future endeavors. Get rid of anything that isn't helping the team reach its objectives.
  • Record Your Procedures: Allow future teams to benefit from your expertise. Share your expertise with those who will follow you.
  • Demonstrate Growth: Use organized reports dating back to previous projects to demonstrate productivity and results. Compare those to future reports to track your progress or identify areas where you still get stuck.
  • Promote More Cohesive Teams: Raise morale by achieving more victories as a group.
  • Improve Communication: From the start, involve your team in the process. Encourage them to stay involved by listening to what they have to say.
  • Develop Best Practices: Determine what works best for your team, then implement and enforce those changes.

Challenges With Lessons Learned in Projects

When implementing lessons learned processes with your team, you will almost certainly encounter some difficulties. Here are some examples of project management challenges:

  • Future Implementation: Applying what you've learned to future projects can be difficult. As a quality professional, when things don't go as planned, employers tend to favour root cause, corrective action (RCCA), and 8D-type investigations. In a structured format, both methods state the problem, identify the causes, and then propose corrections to eliminate or reduce the causes.
  • Time Management: When you're on a tight deadline, it can be difficult to find time to collect your team's feedback. Make sure to account for opportunities to collect and analyze data on lessons learned so that you don't overlook them.
  • Organization: A company's organizational changes could range from handwritten notes on pre-filled questionnaires or in notebooks, to notes on a whiteboard or flipchart, to beginning to use Microsoft Teams and a OneNote page.
  • Blame: For a team that isn't used to sharing negative experiences, make your questionnaire anonymous. Avoid blaming any one member of the team for mistakes. It is best to find someone to facilitate this session, preferably someone the team can fully trust to provide honest feedback. Use a facilitator, especially if the project did not go well. It can help to remove some of the emotional content from the session.

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How to Apply Lessons Learned

  • In New Projects 

Every new project should require the team assembling to review all available lessons pertaining to the task directly (e.g., same type of project) or indirectly (e.g., different type of project, same customer).

Team management requirements should be more stringent. The team management should be encouraged not only to read the related lessons, but also to demonstrate to the company executives that they have done so by presenting a plan demonstrating how the existing lessons will be applied to their task. The performance of the task management against this plan should be reviewed at the project's own lessons session (e.g., following the completion of its first phase).

  • During Phases of a Project

In the case of a multiphase project, the project team and management should be required to review the lessons learned from the previous phase and to act on them by continuing what went well and correcting what went wrong. The project manager should present the progress status on the lessons implementation plan, as seen from his or her perspective, during periodic project reviews with company executives.

  • As a Contribution to Risk Management Activities

Lessons should be integrated into the risk management effort as a tool for identifying risk areas and ways to mitigate them.

  • As a Component of Training Plans

Another area where the lessons-learned inputs should be considered is training planning, as the lessons will often highlight deficiencies that can be corrected through appropriate training programmes.

  • As part of the Process of Continuous Improvement

Lessons learned are an invaluable source of feedback for the process of continuous improvement. Targets for improvement in existing processes and procedures, as well as potential new process needs, process tailoring requirements, and so on, are typically identified. The lessons-learned process should be integrated into all process maintenance activities in every company.

Best Practices for Lessons Learned in Project Management

It is critical to think about the best practices for your specific team. The following are some universal best practises for project management lessons learned:

  • Gather Information Frequently: Gather feedback from your team and hold informal meetings. The more data there is, the better.
  • Document Your Findings: Ensure that your reports are well documented and searchable in storage so that you can easily find relevant lessons learned from previous businesses.
  • Review Previous Lessons: Create a process for reviewing lessons learned at each stage of a project, and keep it up to date as you go.
  • Involve the Entire Team: Everyone involved in a venture, from intern to management, should be able to contribute.
  • Don't assign blame: The team as a whole succeeds and makes mistakes. Encourage collaboration and camaraderie rather than animosity.
  • Close the Loop: Conclude operations with a project retrospective.

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Considerations for Gathering Lessons Learned in a WFH Environment

In an ideal world, you would be able to conduct lessons learned meetings and surveys in person. However, if all or part of a team works from home, there may be additional considerations.

Communication is central to effective teamwork and it's possibly the most important aspect of office life. Thankfully, technology has assisted in closing this critical communication gap. However, when you are not working in a structured office environment, it is easy to become complacent. Not just clothes, but also pets, children, and losing interest in meetings because they are online rather than in-person. Regardless of the circumstances, new team members can find creative ways to connect with their colleagues, from icebreaker activities to domestic interruptions. Also, to accommodate both groups, keep meeting schedules and survey deadlines as flexible as possible.

Isolation can be the most difficult aspect of working from home for those who do not have strong support systems around them. A return to the office could make all the difference for these people, providing a working environment that promotes not only better productivity but also better overall well-being.

Workers require flexibility to be successful, whether they have a global team to manage across time zones, a project-based role that is busier or slower depending on the season, or simply have to balance personal and professional obligations throughout the day.

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In order for companies to learn, a process must be established to collect, process, and disseminate the accumulated lessons. Lessons learned can become extremely valuable tools if properly set up and consistently implemented within a company.

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Best Practices

  • Reuse lessons in your project. You’ll learn in PMP certification training that you should reuse lessons learned from past projects to better manage your current projects.
  • Create lessons learned throughout the project. You can save quite a bit of time by collecting them as you go along. Then, when the project is finished, you can finalize them during project closing or the project phase closing. This is one of the best ways to ensure that they are accurately recorded.
  • Identify Items in lessons learned Sessions. Consider holding regular brainstorming sessions with the team to unearth lessons that are valuable to the project. As we’ve discussed, this can help promote the success of future projects. It’s best not to leave it until the end of the project when memories have faded.
  • Include all your experiences. Be sure to should include positive as well as negative experiences in the lessons learned document to add the highest value to all the future projects in the organization.
  • Involve all stakeholders while preparing the lessons learned. Be sure to include everyone, including all relevant stakeholders, while preparing the lessons learned, whether you prepare the list during or after the project. This will help ensure that all the lessons are captured in the document.
  • Solicit feedback from all stakeholders. Consider conducting a post-project survey to solicit feedback on the project from the project team, customers, and stakeholders who were well acquainted with the management of the project. This helps in capturing the lessons learned in the project while they are fresh in people’s minds. You could summarize the results and pass the recommendations to future teams.
  • Store your lessons learned document in a central repository in your organization. This makes it easier for other project teams to access them whenever it is required. Many organizations have an online portal for document sharing—think SharePoint, Google Docs, OneDrive, or another centralized network location.
  • Archive your lessons learned documents. Lessons learned documents should be archived as historical project data and incorporated into organizational lessons learned.
  • Share your lessons learned with other project teams. The basic objective behind documenting lessons learned is to provide other project teams with information that can increase their efficiency and effectiveness and build on the experience that has been earned by each completed project. Sharing your lessons learned with other teams helps improve the overall performance of the organization.

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