Lessons-learnt – a waste of time? – Part 1 “Why”

Are you wondering if it’s really worthwhile investing time conducting a ‘lessons-learnt’ session at the end of your project?

You’re not alone: Image credit: <a href=''>iqoncept / 123RF Stock Foto</a>I recently ran two Project Management training programs at different companies in different countries with different cultures and asked: “Who is regularly performing lessons-learnt on projects?” And answer was the same: almost no one. This is essentially the same answers FitforProjects has been getting for the past 10 years. Most project managers skip on conducting lessons-learnt.

This is somewhat surprising as nearly all project management books, methodologies, and certification/training programs emphasize the need and importance of looking back on what worked and didn’t on a project.

So, why are theory and practice so far apart?

Let’s first start with what I mean by lessons-learnt. (For more details on how to run a lessons-learnt session, register on and check out the Downloads section)

Simply put, it is a structured method for looking back at the project and learning from the experience: the way problems were solved, the “best” practices that helped to make the project a success (or not!), new behaviors, and tools that were particularly helpful.  Collecting those insights in a formal way helps you both on the personal and organizational level:

  • The project manager gets valuable feedback for personal growth as well as cementing interpersonal connections with key stakeholders, and
  • the organization (company, department etc.) gets valuable input to evolve its overall project management capabilities.

You would think most organizational leaders would insist on their project teams doing lessons-learnt and most project managers would jump at the chance to invest a little time in their own personal careers. But that does not seem to be the case – why?

When I ask the “why” question of participants in my training sessions, I generally hear three things:

  1. “No one asked me to do it”
  2. “I do not see much value in it”
  3. “I think there is value in it, but I do not have the time (or budget) to do it”

So, what’s your reason for not doing lessons-learnt?

I hope I encouraged you to re-think the value of lessons-learnt. In Part 2 of this blog (coming soon), I look at the three “whys” and put some perspective on each.  I hope to challenge your belief that conducting lessons-learnt is a “waste of time” and convince you that they are an important and pragmatic tool for being a successful project manager.

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