All project managers should learn their lessons, and make them available to others

shareWe all grow and develop our skills through learning. Some of that is from formal training and education but the most valuable learning comes from experience. From doing and being involved in things and, yes, making mistakes. In fact, if you’ve never made a mistake, you haven’t pushed the boundaries hard enough and will never be as successful as you could be.

Just look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson. He openly admits making many mistakes. But the key is that he learned from them. Smart people, and especially smart project managers, learn from other people’s mistakes. They don’t push boundaries that have been pushed too far before. They learn from other peoples experiences and build upon them.

However, in the world of project management, we are not very good at sharing. Perhaps it’s the discreet nature of individual projects or a failure in the wider corporate environment to capitalise on all the lessons that occur on almost a daily basis, but we are just not set up to leverage the experiences of others. Often there is no overall corporate owner of project management to champion the sharing of experience, and that is a huge waste.

What can you do about it as an individual project manager? Well, the first step is to make sure you, and your project team, maintain a lessons learned log. It could be a file share or maybe a SharePoint site. Use tags and categories to assist searching the log. Categories could include

  • Types of lesson e.g.
    • Planning
    • Estimating
    • Unexpected risks/issues
    • People issues
    • Unexpected business impacts
  • Stage of project

Basic project info should be included in the file or database such as:

  • Project Manager
  • Sponsor
  • Project/business area
  • Size and duration of project (cost, benefits, effort, duration

You should have a process for recording lessons and actively encourage the project team to populate the log. Remember that you want mistakes documented so openness and honesty is required and NEVER shoot the messenger. Don’t attribute people to the mistakes. the log should never be used as a tool to admonish or criticise a member of the team.

CrowdThe log will be a key input to the post implementation review when the project ends. But before then, you should promote its existence and share it as widely as possible. Many organisations have internal social networks and/or newsletters. Actively promote the log to your colleagues.

When your project ends, don’t just delete the log. Take a copy with you and use it as the starting point for your next project. If there is a central PMO encourage them to take an interest and promote the idea to other projects.

Finally, as a project manager, you should actively seek out lessons from your colleagues and the wider project management community. Ask the corporate PMO if any logs already exist. Talk to your fellow project managers, both internally and externally through forums like LinkedIn groups, blog communities etc.

Nobody else will take responsibility for your growth and development as a project manager. It’s in your hands to do something about it. But when you share your own experiences, you’ll be surprised how much valuable experience others will be willing to share in return. Why not share an experience by commenting on this article now.

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  1. […] We all grow and develop our skills through learning. Some of that is from formal training and education but the most valuable learning comes from experience. From doing and being involved in things…  […]

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