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20 June 2013

Make Lessons Learned a Part of Your Culture

An organization with process maturity will close the loop on Lessons Learned.

By closing the loop, I mean that the organization will ensure the capture, distribution, and institutionalization of the lessons taught by the school of hard knocks.

While the Project Manager should identify and collect Lessons Learned, Quality Assurance should categorize and preserve them.  QA should take further steps to communicate the lessons.

First, leaving it to everybody to go searching the LL database does not work.  Like that will ever happen! Ha!

Instead, QA should sort the LLs by function and subject and distribute the information to affected functional managers across the organization.  This ensures that, for example, the Integration Engineers in different programs and at different locations receive the expensively acquired knowledge.  If the functional managers fail to communicate the lessons to their people, upper management should give QA the authority to do so.

Second, QA should incorporate applicable improvements to the Organizational Process Assets.  This way, QA does not merely deposit critical knowledge into the Tribal Knowledge Bank, but actually institutionalizes it.  This introduces accountability when QA audits process compliance.  It also allows the lesson to be moved to a section of the database that lists rationales for historical purposes.  Not every Lesson Learned needs to be researched for normal operations.

Note that this involves Change Control at both the project level and at the organizational level.

As an example, engineers delivered documents to a customer without the necessary review and approval of the Chief Engineer.  The incident led to rework and incorrect customer expectations.

Tribal knowledge had established a channel that would have ensured proper review before release.  However, new employees did not know it, and management had nothing in writing that allowed them to discipline experienced employees who knew better.

Engineering stepped in where corporate management had left a gap.  They instituted processes for document review and approval and for an engineering communications manager to coordinate release of documents to clients.

Thus, an incident led to a Lesson Learned.  The Lesson Learned led to policy and procedural changes.  The new practice became part of the formal procedures and did not get lost in a database that ever researched.

Copyright 2013, Richard Wheeler -- Permission granted for non-profit or personal use with a link to this post.

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