Reduce the Risk of Making the Same Mistakes

July 08, 2019

Granted there are positive and negative risks, but, repeating poor business decisions an organization has made is a costly risk. Making informed decisions will better your company’s bottom line and your career.

A technique and best practice to make informed business decisions is to develop “lessons learned” information throughout the life of projects. Sharing lessons learned information — mistakes, discoveries and outcomes — can have a positive impact. Yet few collect lessons learned information regularly. Some tackle this just in the final days of a project — or worse, after a project has completed. When that happens, ones scramble for bits and pieces of project history. Often, because a project is in closeout and few team members may be remaining, the details are limited.

Improve your lessons learned documentation with the following tips.

1. Start from Kick-Off

Starting from the kick-off meeting, capture and store the lessons-learned information in a central location for everyone to review. Use a central location, a database or collaboration tool such as SharePoint or even a social enterprise program like Yammer.

As a project progresses, use status meetings to capture and review lessons gained since the previous meeting. This is the best time to collect it because event details are fresh.

2. Add Lessons Learned to Meeting Agendas

Lessons learned should be a priority on agendas. Each team member should have an opportunity to share his or her positive and negative experiences for the week. The term “lessons learned” does not need to be used; just capture what went right and wrong from every team member. Prevent this part of the meeting from evolving into a complaint session. The more open and non-judgmental this time is, the more team members will warm up to providing information.

At the end of the project, compile the information into a final presentation that will be stored in a repository.

3. Show Discretion 

Occasionally, you may need to decide what information should be shared. Sometimes, sharing too much can cause unnecessary bias that could negatively impact a current project. An example would be capturing information about an individual or a particular group. That information may have been valuable for the previous project, but it won’t necessarily offer any benefit for this particular project and therefore should not be broadly shared.

4. Collect Details

When using and reviewing information from past projects, look for the following information to share with your team and customers to help benefit your new project:

  • Learn how earlier budgets were tracked and what techniques they used to be successful.
  • Determine the duration of the new project to compare with the previous schedules. This comparison is important because you can find out if your project can or should be using the same time frames.
  • Look for the various usage percentages of each team member, the process for finding team members and whether those team members were allocated properly across the project life cycle.
  • Understand the previous project’s risks and issues to minimize the chances of those reoccurring on your project. Understand the methods used to track and reduce risks.

5. Communicate with Managers

One technique used when reviewing lessons learned is talking directly to managers of similar previous or current projects. Those conversations often provide additional ideas that may not have been documented but are still valuable.

Your efforts to collect lessons learned information will pay off. When companies take the time to produce lessons learned the correct way, they build a knowledge base that can benefit future work for years to come. If your company has not previously documented lessons learned, consider starting with templates.

Need additional assistance with your projects? Sustained Quality Group offers solutions in quality control, engineering and production support to manufacturing organizations throughout North America. Contact us today.

Bill Dow and Bruce Taylor. (2015). “Project Communication Tools”. Retrieved from