What is a Lessons Learned Document in PMI? – Learning Guide
What is a lessons learned document in PMI

What is a Lessons Learned Document in PMI? – Learning Guide

Last updated on 14th Jul 2020, Blog, General

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Sharing experiences, solutions to problems, tips for effective management, and templates for project documents are all part of a healthy and successful project management environment. Some of the tools include review of added value documents created by project managers on other projects.   The documents that are most useful between projects include risk registers/logs, Submittal Registers/Logs, Project/Contract Change Logs, Project Management Plan Change Log, and Lessons Learned.

This article presents good practices for Lessons Learned, which is defined by Project Management Institute (PMI) in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) as “The knowledge gained during a project which shows how project events were addressed or should have been addressed in the future with the purpose of improving future performance.”   The importance of this knowledge is integrated into the Project Management Book Of Knowledge areas for Quality Management, Communications Management, Procurement Management and Stakeholder Management. However, Lessons Learned can cover all areas and apply to the operation of the Organization executing the project.

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    Lessons Learned are part of PMI processes and they are essential for continuous quality improvements under Organizational Quality Management Systems. Lessons Learned helps project managers, program managers, portfolio managers, leaders in Project Management Offices and leaders in the Organization by reinforcing established requirements and processes or showing resolutions to specific experiences while providing input for future applications.   The project/program/portfolio (Project) lessons may lead to changing standard form requirements in contracts and purchase orders, improving management techniques and tools, and modifying project and organization processes and procedures. 

    Lessons Learned can occur at any level in the management hierarchy and it can involve micro and macro topics that are encountered throughout the Project lifecycle. The topics should be monitored to ensure that substantive Lessons are highlighted and shared throughout the project management domain as well as other Organizational silos that support projects.   These silos may realize corporate benefits from implementing corresponding changes that are escalated for consideration throughout the rganization. 

    Projects rarely have processes, procedures or standards that are not integrated with an Organization’s existing operation processes, procedures, and transactions for executing day-to-day activities for delivery of business services and products.   Many organizations already have business units that support projects, including Human Resources, Material Procurement/Warehousing, Contracts, Engineering, Fiscal Control and Strategic Planning. Each of these units have well established processes and procedures that will be adapted for project work.   As a result, Lesson Learned on a project scale may be applicable to making the Organization more effective and efficient in meeting business goals and objectives.  

    A Lessons Learned document should be a summary level Matrix where the reader can quickly assess if it is applicable to their project.   If needed, White Papers/Discussion Narratives can supplement the summary and be part of the project records as well as a shared records and knowledge site.  The PMO, Program Manager or the manager of Project Managers, should establish the format, content and frequency for projects to propose Lessons Learned for sharing with other project managers and project teams in the PMO or the Organization.   

    Practices for Lesson Learned Documents

    Lessons Learned should follow the format and content set by the Organization and its Project Management Office.   The topics may include:

    • Project/Contract Description
    • Project/Contract Status at time of Lessons Learned
    • Existing Requirements
    • Specific Project Experience
    • Resolution of Negative Experience
    • Reinforcement of Positive Experience
    • Application on Future Projects

    Practices for Lessons Learned Process

    The true benefit of Lessons Learned is the ability to collect data and to make it available to project teams for research throughout a project life cycle.   Lessons Learned may most commonly  be created at the completion of predecessor projects and reviewed at the start of planning for successor projects. However, it is equally important to review Lessons Learned at critical project milestones or at the time of risk events. Organization or PMO processes should include:

    • Establish Lessons Learned requirements
    • Access to Shared LAN Drive for viewing Lessons Learned
    • Categorize Lessons Learned scope in a file tree and Index
    • Require project manager reviews as part of PMP/Project Charter Development
    • Discuss Lesson Learned at Management Review Meetings for Quality Management System

    TIP: Project management oversight and program managers should monitor project progress and suggest topics and experiences based on events that provide teachable moments for documenting and sharing Lesson Learned.

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    TIP:    Project management plans and program management plans should integrate Lessons Learned requirements.

    TIP: Program managers should champion changes from Lessons Learned for improving project outputs applicable to processes in various PMBOK knowledge areas. 

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