Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lesson Learned Questions

Question. When do you complete lessons learned during your project? At the end right? Well, yes that is part of it, but there may be some other logical time points to consider too.

If your project is set up with phases, it may be a good idea to have a lessons learned meeting at the end of each phase (why wait until the end of a 3 year project, when there are some valuable lessons at the end of phase 1). Also, if there is a major event that occurs (good or bad) it is important to get the info out so other PMs know that it may affect them.

So what questions do you ask at a lessons learned meeting? There are some classic ones that I will cover below, but there are always some questions that are project or organization specific.


  1. How was the communication of project details? Any suggestions for improvement? (remember 90% of being a PM is communication! If communication is lacking in your projects you need to fix it).
  2. What issues occurred and how did we fix them? (if you keep an issues table for the life of your project this will be easy to review at the meeting)
  3. Recommendations for future projects like this one.
  4. Input from the team on the Project Management process.
  5. Did we have enough resources? Remember we planned that timeline at the beginning and resource managers signed off on the project...
  6. What workarounds did you use? Did they work? This is important to document, since you may need to use this workaround on a future project.
  7. What went well? We want to document this so we make sure we do this again, or review it to do it even better next time!
  8. Did the scope change during this period, if so why? Remember if you change the scope it may affect other things (like time, budget, resources)

If you have issues with team members opening up I suggest creating a survey (see my post on lesson learned surveys).

Finally, you need a common location for your lessons learned findings. In my organization, we send the lessons learned document around for review to the Executives and the PMs. And then these are stored in a common location for future review. Without lessons learned your PMO or PM process will never have a chance to improve.

Notable quotable from the movie Animal House (from the blog: uncoachable.com):

Bluto: Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…
[thinks hard]
Bluto: the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!
[runs out, alone; then returns]
Bluto: What the **** happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…
Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.
Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.
D-Day: Let’s do it.
Bluto: *Let’s do it*!

Lesson Learned: Don’t ever give up