How can we learn lessons when every project is different?
This is another one to add to the “Common Knowledge Management Objections” list, and it’s worth thinking in advance what your counter-argument might be.
It’s a push-back you hear quite often in project organisations:
“We can’t do Knowledge Management, especially lessons learned, as all our projects are different”.
I last herd this from a technology company, and by saying “every project is different”, they mean that “every project has a different client, different product, different technical specifications”.
To some extent, they are correct, and this project variation reduces some of the impact of lesson learning. Certainly lessons add the most value when projects are the most similar. But even when projects change, learning still adds value.
Firstly, even on those technology projects, the process will be the same.
The process of building and understanding the client requirements, choosing and forming the team, selecting and managing sub contractors, balancing the innovation against the risk, communicating within the team, keeping the client requirements always in mind, managing quality, managing cost, managing time, managing expectations, managing risk, and so on.
There is a huge amount of learning to be done about the process of a project, even when the tasks are different.
Secondly, the other common factor for this technology company was that every project was a variant on their existing product.
They learned a lot about the way the product worked, and the technology behind the product, with every new project. If this additional knowledge was not captured, then they would have to rediscover it anew every time. If the knowledge is captured, then each project is an exploration into the technology, and builds the company understanding of the technology so that new products can be developed in future.
So even if every project is different, every project can still be a learning opportunity.
Tags: learning from experience, lessons learned