Best practices for preparing a lessons learned document

Best practices for preparing a lessons learned document
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Sabyasachi

Published on June 5, 2012


  • 9051 Views

"Well done is better than well said" - Benjamin Franklin

A few years ago, I and my team , had implemented a web based tool for a major healthcare client and the client was happy with our work . We were working on various activities in the closing phase of the project including the finalization of the lessons learned document . Since we had a lot of tasks to do , we weren't really excited about the lessons learned . Thankfully , we had updated our lessons learned throughout the project . Also , since the project was a vital project in the organization , and the lessons learned is a required project management practice , we decided to complete the document as thoroughly as we could .

A day after we finalized the lessons learned document , I was surprised to see a single line email in my inbox , from our practice manager , which said "Well done team " .

Today , I am able to see exactly why my practice manager was happy with our work . The document still helps a lot of teams in successfully implementing similar projects in the healthcare domain and implement the best practices in software development and project management which were mentioned in it .

In my last article on this blog , we have learnt why preparing the lessons learned document is a necessary project management practice.

In this article we will take a look at some of the best practices in preparing the lessons learned document and how they can help an organization in improving its project performance .

Experts recommend the following best practices in creating and maintaining Lessons Learned Documentation to improve the overall project performance of any organization .

  • Reuse Lessons in your project

You should reuse lessons learned from past projects to manage your current projects better As Andy Crowe , PMP , Founder and CEO of velociteach mentions in one of his prep books for the PMP certification exam .

"Lessons learned are organizational process assets which can be good inputs into many planning processes " .

  • Create Lessons learned throughout the project and then finalize them during project closing or the project phase closing .


You should create lessons learned throughout the project and then finalize them during the project closing or project phase closing . This is one of the best ways to ensure that they are accurately recorded . You may have regular brainstorming sessions with the team to unearth lessons that are valuable to the project .

As Duncan Haughey , PMP , the editor of Project smart mentions in one of his articles with pmStudent.com

" Project teams should learn to identify lessons during projects and record them for inclusion in a lessons learned report at the end of the project. This might be done as part of their regular team meetings" .

  • Identify Lessons Learned in Lessons Learned Sessions

You should convene lessons learned sessions to promote the success of future projects. As Duncan Haughey , PMP , the editor of Project smart mentions in one of his articles with pmStudent.com

" Arrange regular brainstorming sessions with the project team, with an independent facilitator, to unearth valuable lessons. Don’t leave it until the end of the project when memories have faded " .

  • Include all your experiences while preparing the Lessons Learned

You should include all your positive as well as negative experiences in the lessons learned document to add the highest value to all the future projects in the organization . As Rita Mulcahy mentions in one of her prep books for the PMP exam

"Why make the same mistakes or face the same problems others have faced ? Why not benefit from others experiences ? Imagine you could reach into a filing cabinet and see such data for all the projects your company has worked on . How valuable would that be?"

  • Involve all stakeholders while preparing the Lessons Learned

You should involve all relevant stakeholders while preparing the lessons learned . This will ensure that all the lessons are captured in the document .

  • Solicit feedback from all stakeholders

You should conduct 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 .

  • Document your Lessons Learned and store them in a central repository in your organization .

It is important to 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 this purpose . As Duncan Haughey , PMP , the editor of Projectsmart , mentions in one of his articles with pmStudent.com

"Lessons learned must be stored in a central repository with general access. Create a system for storage and retrieval of lessons. Online systems are ideal for this, giving easy access to the lessons."

  • Archive Lessons Learned

Lessons learned should be archived as historical project data and incorporated into organizational lessons learned . These lessons learned can be very good inputs for many planning processes in your projects .

  • 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 . You must share your lessons learned with other teams in the organization to improve the overall performance of the organization . As Rita Mulcahy mentions in one of her prep books for the PMP examination

"You may not wait until the project is over to share the lessons learned with other projects . Lessons learned might be send out to other projects as they are created ".

Conclusion :
If your are keen in adopting a lessons learned culture , you should implement a simple process of collecting , collating , analyzing and disseminating the lessons learned . Once , the lessons learned have been captured , you must ensure that they are made available to other project teams within the organization so that they can learn from your experiences . Until Next Time ,

About the Author

Sabyasachi has over a decade’s experience in leading IT and non IT projects in the Healthcare, Oil and Energy, eCommerce, Public Sector Undertaking , and Services industry . He is a PMI certified Project Management Professional , PMP, and a volunteer in the Project management community with a focus on best practice and mentoring other project management professionals . His writings are regularly published in several blogs , forums and online project management communities .


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