Project Managers: Learn lessons from past projects

Learning lessons from past failures is an important source of progress. Project managers should plan a formal 'lessons learned' session during the closing phase. If you have a knowledge management system, you should also feed the knowledge base appropriately.

The next time you make a mistake, write it down. No matter how trivial the problem might be, document the error (as well as the process required to remedy the mistake, and the correct steps that are to be taken instead). Just as it's frustrating to see your favourite hockey team make the same mistakes over and over without learning from them, project managers are equally vulnerable to an unending repetition of errors. What makes it acutely painful is the loss that the project, its members and the organisation, suffers. From time lost to unnecessary duplication of effort (which erodes morale) to financial losses from wasting time and resources, everyone loses.

By something as simple as maintaining a managers' log that documents all errors, such losses can be avoided. If this log is updated and shared between all project managers at all times, we have a unique opportunity for project managers to learn from mistakes (of others and their own). However, the process usually stops here, with mistakes documented for sake of formality and filed away only to never be seen again.

What's needed is an incentive for project managers to act upon the lessons learnt. By instituting management level policies that reward efficiency and better results, organisations can cut down on process mishandling, time mismanagement and resource wastage. Project management methodologies should be expanded to include not only complete sharing of information as mentioned above, but an emphasis on identifying, processing and rectifying mistakes in project phases even before they can affect output. However, before any of this can happen, someone has to write them down.

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