The IT Project Blog held its first live webinar session on the lessons learned process. What a success! We discussed topics ranging from how to compile a project lessons learned repository for your organization to how to find value in the failures of past engagements. Thanks to all who were able to carve out time to join us and share in this informative, interactive discussion!
There were lots of requests yesterday from attendees to learn more about how to present project lessons learned findings after they’re compiled and with whom those findings should be shared. These were great questions! Let’s expand on the “who” and the “what” of presenting your post-deployment analysis. First, the “who”: You’ll find that those who are most interested in attending a post- project lessons learned session will fall into three main categories: sponsors, project team members, and clients. The “what” is a little bit more complicated and often depends on your audience. That being the case, let’s highlight what sort of findings will most peak the interest of each of the three attendee groups.
1) Executive sponsors are often most committed to the success of the project because they were responsible for obtaining a budget for the work. That being the case, discuss in detail with them the profitability of the project’s end results. Depending on how soon after you hold a project lessons learned meeting, you may be able to capture data on the value that your project has brought to your clients. For example,
- Did your project improve data quality? If so, by what percentage?
- Did your project reduce vendor staffing? If so, how much did it save the company?
The key is to quantify your results to make it relevant to your sponsors.
2) When soliciting and sharing project lessons learned with team members, be sure to discuss:
- Project scope (reasonable vs. unrealistic)
- How scheduling of project phases made their jobs easier or more difficult
- The effectiveness of post-launch support plans
Capturing their approval along with their concerns will show them you appreciate the work they put in to bring the project to a close.
3) Clients and end users, like executive sponsors, will be interested to hear about the project’s profitability. In addition to that, they will likely be eager to share:
- Their personal satisfaction on how the project was managed
- The effectiveness of the communication plan before and during the product launch
- How receptive you, the project manager or service provider, were to their business needs and functionality requests
Drawing out honest feedback from clients is tough – if mistakes were made, it can be easy to begin playing the blame game; be sure to keep discussions useful and informative to maximize benefit for everyone involved.
I hope these tips help you generate ideas on how to make the project lessons learned sessions you hold relevant and useful to your team, clients, and sponsors. Remember, you will need their support for your next engagement so always emphasize the value they have brought to the project by including them in your project lessons learned discussions.
Again, the first IT Project Blog webinar on project lessons learned was a resounding success – we can’t wait until our next session and hope you will be able to join!
First of all, on June 30, 2010 the IT Project Blog hosted its first webinar on project lessons learned, which discussed how to create and benefit from a lessons learned process. The webinar was a big success, so thanks to everyone who participated! We had a very active audience and a great Q&A session.
But why are we making such a big deal about this lessons learned process? Admittedly, lessons learned (often dubbed the project’s “post- mortem analysis”) is a task that comes after project launch and certainly isn’t given as much attention. Most of us fail to do it at all and get along just fine doing so. So why the focus on it now?
Documenting lessons learned is an integral part of the lifecycle management of a project and is especially helpful to project managers who want to get better at their job over time.
Just think of the repetitive nature of our role -- as PMs, we end up performing the same sort of tasks in each project, whether it be building a team, communicating with and managing stakeholders, or hiring third-party vendors. With all of these tasks, understanding how we succeeded and where we failed will maximize our performance over time and ultimately improve the efficiency with which we manage our assignments.
In my current role as a technical project manager, I’ve led 30+ engagements, some big and some small, and have worked with many of the same stakeholder groups in each one. It is very useful for me to receive feedback from clients and stakeholders after each project has ended, specifically on topics like the following:
- What was the single most frustrating part of our project?
- Was communication on project progress informative and timely?
- Did we have the right people assigned to the right roles?
- Do you think we could have completed this project well without one or more of our vendors?
Building this repository of feedback helps me focus on areas for improvement and contributes to a winning relationship with my clients. And trust me -- having that relationship and staying in tune to the needs of my stakeholders makes what could be very difficult project tasks that much easier! But why else should a lessons learned process be instituted? There is already a vast body of knowledge available to managers online and in books authored by seasoned PMPs that you can rely on to navigate through the pitfalls and tests of a project.
Using the lessons learned process to build your own personal resource with a history of what worked and what didn’t in your projects builds on the already helpful resources.
Don’t hesitate to share this information with PMs in your own organizations to improve their skills. This process also proves even more useful because you actually experienced the victories and challenges yourself. Experience is the best teacher; take advantage of yours and the experiences of others.
In this IT Project Blog webinar I shared steps and tips on just how to go about gathering and documenting useful lessons from your projects and the best way to get the most out of the results. We also talked about how to compile the data, present it to executives, and act on the results found.