Today I started to create a ‘lessons learned’ document for the major project I’ve been working on since last year. Initially I sat down and wrote out all the various headings for the project and it occured to me that the number of lessons learned was very large and they cover literally all aspects of the project. Obviously such a long an exhaustive list is going to take a long time for me and other members of the project team to assemble, and a long time in the future for anyone wishing to read the outcome. So whilst I was driving home I started to think about ways to sort through this information and produce a more lightweight, punchy and pertinent document. Here is the result:
- Divide the project into 9 topics, by discipline. In the case of my project this will be something like: design conception, specification, tender process, documentation, low voltage electrical, high voltage electrical, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and safety
- Brainstorm the learning points for each of your selected topics with the whole team
- Sort the ideas in order of pertinence for each category and ignore anything that isn’t at least in the top 10.
- Provide a detailed description (from a page to a paragraph) for the first 3 items in each category
- For any items 4 and above a summary description will be sufficient.
- Pick out the 10 most important points across all areas (you should already have written out the detailed descriptions for these items, some abreviation might be necessary if you have 10 full pages).
- Create an executive summary and put the 10 points you selected in there.
I’m going to try this method over the next week or so and see how it works. All the major projects I’ve worked on previously have had a day or two of workshops at the end devoted to exactly this kind of process. The normal tangible outcomes of such a process are either a very large excel spreadsheet or a lengthy word document that isn’t finished until +1 year after the project. The documents themselves are seldom, if ever, read after the event and by those outside the team that created them. However there is still value in these kinds of process, the majority of which is captured by the participants who are able to crystalise the knowledge gained and apply it personally to their own future work. My aim is to make something that can be retained and integrated a little better within the institutional memory of the organisation, which will be more accessible to those outside the core project team.