Lessons Learned, or lessons lost?

Are you learning lessons, or losing lessons?

Kizar [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

A Lesson is an Investment

It might take a project team of 10 people, one day to create, through facilitated discussion, ten high-quality lessons. So each of these takes one man-day to create; say £500 – plus some write-up time – lets say £1000 per lesson to choose a nice round number.

However that lesson is encapsulated knowledge which, if re-used, may save man-months of wasted time and effort in the future, or tens of thousands of pounds of wasted cost. The project team have invested their time to deliver future ten-fold or hundred-fold return on that investment. That lesson may therefore be an investment worth £10,000 to £100, 000 when realized through application.

So what do we normally do with our investments?

Do we hide them in a hole and never look at them again? Do we file that share certificate in a drawer and never look at it again? Or do we track our investments until the time and situation is right to realise them? When it comes to money, we do the latter. But what about lessons?

Unfortunately, a common approach to lessons is to record them in a report, or on a spreadsheet, then put them into project files, and hide them in the online filing system. I heard a report a couple of weeks ago about a team that created some hugely valuable lessons, and stored them in security-controlled project files to which no other project was allowed access!

That’s not Lessons Learned; that’s Lessons Lost.

That’s like the last scene in Indiana Jones, when the Ark of the Covenant is put in a crate, and hidden in a vast warehouse of identical crates.

What we should do with investments, is put them in a managed portfolio, and we track them, until we find the opportunity to realise their value.

What we should do with lessons, is put them in a Lessons Management System, and track them, until we find the opportunity to reuse them or to embed them into process and procedure, thus realising the investment of time and effort that was put into generating them in the first place.

That’s Lessons Learned; rather than Lessons Lost.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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