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How many of us actually sit down and conduct lessons learned sessions at the end of our projects? Show of hands? Not many, actually. One survey I conducted of project management professionals indicated that 57% conduct lessons learned sessions on fewer than 10% of their projects. I admit…I’m guilty. I write about it, yet I don’t always do it. Why? I have my reasons. They usually fall into one of these excuse categories:

  • No money left in the budget
  • The customer is happy so why bother
  • The customer is unhappy and I don’t want to hear more complaining
  • I have too many other projects to manage
  • My team has too many other commitments to commit
  • Everyone took their stuff and went home

Do these sound familiar? Usually, more than one applies on each project. You have to make yourself want to do a lessons learned session. It’s sort of like when you were a kid and you made the proactive effort to sit down with your parents and discuss a bad report card. Sure.

Ideally, you would schedule a formal lessons learned session where you could get everyone in the room to discuss the pros and cons of what went on throughout the engagement in a friendly, yet professional environment and manner. The likelihood that you can get everyone together AFTER deployment is not very big. If everyone is actually in the same location at the time of deployment – or at least most everyone and you can tie others in by phone or video conference – then that is probably going to be your best option.

However, if your time is very limited or if you find you’re losing your team and/or customer to other efforts, then at least do this… Send out a lessons learned template to everyone in advance, schedule a one-hour conference call for a week later and ask everyone to fill out the lessons learned template with their information and return it to you. Then, during the call the following week, discuss what was turned in. Follow that up the following week with one more one-hour call to go over the cumulative results and to get agreement from everyone. Your end result will be a decent collaborative knowledge base of lessons learned from the engagement and only a few hours of effort – and no travel – went into it.

Tracking project statusFor a useable lessons learned template, go to my site at bradegeland.com and visit the Templates & Downloads section. There you will find a lessons learned document template to use for this activity as well as some other potentially helpful templates and documents for your project management needs.

For more information visit the Entry Software site and signup for an online 30-minute demo with an Entry Software consultant.

About the author: Brad Egeland is an IT/PM & Business Strategy consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He can be reached at brad@bradegeland.com or you can visit his website at www.bradegeland.com.

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