Lessons Learned Project Management

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Lessons Learned Project Management is a process that is often bypassed. That’s because project managers and team members are sick of talking about the project they have worked on for months. Skipping the lessons learned process says to your team, “This project is too small to do any of that fancy lessons learned stuff. Let’s save some time and just start the next project.”  What you are “saving” is possibly 60 minutes of time. What you are losing is valuable information about what went well and what did not during every phase of the project you just completed.  The lessons learned information includes your project’s plans, schedules and templates. It also includes estimates of time and duration that are realistic, not “plucked from the sky.” All this lessons learned data from past projects is used to avoid “reinventing the wheel” on future projects.

An organization that doesn’t require a lessons learned process is denying itself the opportunity to improve overall project performance by learning from earlier mistakes. If project managers don’t conduct lessons learned meetings and archive their plans, schedules, templates and forms, the next project managers will waste many hours.  Even worse, they and the team will make the same mistakes on future projects because they didn’t learn from past projects. Lessons Learned Main Page

Lessons Learned Project Management Process: Step One

Here’s how the Lessons Learned Project Management process should work. First, you need to assemble your project team, the sponsor and maybe a stakeholder or two. In that meeting, you identify any mistakes made on the just-completed project and things you could do better next time. It’s always good to start by getting the team’s feedback on how you did as the project manager. Ask for their opinions about your performance in initiating the project, developing the plan, creating the schedule, estimating costs and duration and solving problems. Then ask about how useful your status reporting was. In all those areas, ask how you could do better next time. Some project managers get defensive about the criticism and they don’t welcome the team’s suggestions. But your willingness to accept constructive criticism makes the others accept it when it’s their turn to get feedback on their performance.


Lessons Learned Project Management Process: Step Two

Lessons learned project managementThe Lessons Learned Project Management session is a project manager’s best opportunity to train a project sponsor. After taking your criticisms from the group, you might step through the stages of the project and ask everyone what they might have done better on planning, estimating and solving problems. Minor suggestions about how a sponsor’s time investment would have avoided a problem can have a big impact next time. You write down all the ideas for doing things better and send everyone a copy. The hope is that it will positively affect future behavior. Lessons Learned Questions

Lessons Learned Project Management Process: Step Three

Before you file away the lessons learned ideas and send everyone a copy, you have one more task.  Gather up the estimates of the work duration and cost you made during planning.  Then compile the data you have on how long each task actually took and how much it actually cost. That will help improve the estimates on similar projects in the future.  The easy way to archive it is to save your Microsoft Project® file. It is easy to store and access next time.  The last elements to save are the project plans you produced for the just-completed project. Having those available to use on the next project can save a lot of time.

Spending an hour of your time on the Lessons Learned Project Management process is  a wise investment that pays big returns on future projects.

You can enhance your project management skills and master the lessons learned project management process in our online project management courses. You begin whenever you wish and control the schedule and pace. You work privately with an expert project manager and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

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Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on Amazon.com