The infamous lessons learned: Do they really exist? For many people learning about project management, they have heard this term quite a bit. In theory, a lessons-learned session is supposed to identify issues, risks, and pitfalls of a previous project and document them so that they can be avoided in future projects. However, this step rarely gets done.
Many team members feel that a lessons-learned session is for complaining or placing blame about project mishaps. Others are just too busy to attend. Either case is an excuse for the real reason, which is that many people see little or no value to a lessons-learned session. This is because most companies mandate some sort of session, but do not have a way to store or retrieve them. They become busywork and therefore are pushed aside or completed with little effort.
The real reason to perform a lessons-learned session is to truly learn. First, many issues on a project are communication issues. A session to discuss them, in an open and honest atmosphere, allows team members to solve the communication issues and build a stronger bond for the next project. Many times, larger issues are a result of some small misunderstandings along the way. These can be avoided by an adjustment to a form or an earlier notification of a need. If these issues are not explored, they will most likely occur again and again. The greatest way to show value in lessons-learned sessions is to publish them. Create a repository of them for others to find. An even better way is to bring a list of previous lessons learned to the planning meeting for your next project.