Projects have teachable moments

Darcy Lemon, Senior Proj Manager at American Productivity & Quality Centre is shared their findings on how to units of the US Army and Credit Suisse manage their lessons learned at KMWorld 2009.  She started by looking at the challenges many organizations have in managing lessons learned including:

– management really doesn’t support capturing or using lessons learned

– people don’t want to admit mistakes

– it’s extra work that no one uses again anyway

You know the list.  But she moved quickly beyond these challenges to describe how the US Army’s Center for Lessons Learned, and the Army’s ARDEC units, as well as Credit Suisse are successfully using their lessons learned.  This includes:

1. they clarify the strategic objective for the lessons learned initiative — articulating & getting buy-in into how this initiative advances organizational goals both near-term & long-term

2. they set up governance – wow! – clarifying the roles & skills for all those involved in capturing lessons learned; this was interesting after having heard Dave Snowden talk yesterday about an organization that has KM managers go sit with people for 15 mins/day to help them blog their insights & learnings — this organization has learned that ppl are much more willing to record their ideas & understanding if someone can help them write these up into a blog quickly.  Seems that this may apply to lessons learned too.  Just a bit more about what APQC found in their work with the Army & Credit Suisse, is that the best ppl to work on lessons learned are those who don’t know anything about the work processes – because they don’t overlay their assumptions or judgements. Interesting.

3. it’s critical that the lessons learned are built into an organization’s quality improvement work; I wonder if it’s also integrated into innovation functions?

4. & just as critical that LL is built into the work processes – especially project design

5. measures measures measures — measures, both process & business impact measures are important

She ended by putting up disjointed photos & asking ppl what they see: a jumble — & the metaphor is that the LL joins those disjointed bits of data/information into different images to display & demonstrate what’s working in some cases & what’s not.

Last but not least – communication.  Too often people don’t know LL are being captured, or how to even get to these, let alone how to incorporate them. It’s all about re-use & demonstrating process & organizational benefits to investing in LL & managing the related perceived risks.

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