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5 Ways To Improve Your Lessons Learned Meetings

Do you hold lessons learned meetings? This is a key part of any project and one that a project director or leader should not overlook. It’s held at the end of a project and is used to uncover what was learned during the project. This is important so that essential tips and lessons are not forgotten and the learning can be applied to other projects in the future. Ideally, this should stop the same mistakes being made again, and it a great way to encourage a culture of organizational improvement. Of course, you should also spend some time talking about what went well, and this should be replicated as far as you can!

A lessons learned meeting is a good way to bring a project to a close. It can be a productive discussion as well as a positive way to thank the team for the work they have done completing this project. However, they can be difficult to facilitate as you want to stop them turning into a session about how badly everything went. Here are five suggestions for improving your project lessons learned meetings.

1. Book the meeting now

It can be tempting to leave the lessons learned meeting to the end of the project – after all, that’s when it is going to be held. But if you don’t think about it until then, you’ll find it hard to get all the right people together. Ask your project manager or administrator to book the meeting now. If the attendees change you can always extend the meeting invite to other people or drop people off the invite list nearer the time. Get a room and start thinking about the agenda as well. If you give people enough notice they should be able to make the session. 

You will facilitate the meeting, so think about what you want to get out of the time and how you want the meeting to work.

2. Talk about the positives too

Don’t let the meeting spiral into a session where the stakeholders and project team members simply talk about problems and all the things they didn’t like about the project. Make sure that you can steer the conversation to positive elements as well, as these are the best practices that you will want the next project team to replicate. If you can, make sure these positive lessons are shared with people outside the meeting as well, such as other project managers.

3. It’s not just about the project management process

Project management processes tend to take up much of the discussion time in lessons learned meetings. There is always someone who wants to comment on how the risk management process could be improved or why the project board meetings didn’t go as well as they could. However, you should also try to spend some time focusing on the project outcomes. Hopefully, the project delivered exactly what you were expecting, but if it didn’t, why was this? 

Think about the quality of the products and how this was achieved. Did the project meet the stated objectives and if not, what are you going to do next to ensure these business goals are not overlooked?

4. Don’t focus on recent work

You’ve probably seen this manifest itself in numerous ways in your business – you ask someone for feedback and they tell you what they can remember of the last month. It happens in end of year reviews and in lessons learned meetings. People have short memories, so what they were working on during project initiation seems like the distant past! 

Try to build some time into the agenda to discuss each project phase. If you let people know that this will happen in advance hopefully they can attend the meeting with some recollection of what went well and what didn’t during those early stages. Tell them that you will be discussing the whole project and ask them to come to the meeting prepared to comment on the whole project lifecycle, not just the last delivery and implementation phase.

5. Follow up afterwards

Having the meeting is a good start, but it is only a start. Take detailed notes during the meeting (or have a colleague scribe during the meeting for you). Then you can start making changes as a result of the items raised. If, for example, there are things that you can do to improve the risk management process, then do them! You may need to delegate this task to a working group who can go away and investigate the potential improvements, then implement and communicate them. But people like to know that their time at the lessons learned meeting has not been wasted and that action was taken as a result of the points raised.

The lessons learned meeting should already be on your project plan, but if it isn’t, get one of your project team to book one today, or do it yourself. It’s the only way that your projects will improve and you’ll get better and better as a company at delivering results that are a huge success.

What are your tips for improving Lessons Learned Meetings?

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Author: Jason Westland (All Rights Reserved by the author)

Source: Original Text (based upon first hand knowledge)
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