Lessons Learned Template

Usually, when finishing up a project and reviewing it with your team, the phrase “we could have done this much better” will come up. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means there is room for improvement, and this is where implementing and using a lessons learned template will greatly benefit your future projects.

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Lessons Learned: Defined

Lessons learned refer to a set of activities or actions performed to achieve a specified set of products, results, or services. In project management, this process is performed as a conversation or a meeting typically held after a project has ended, in which people look at a project in retrospect. This meeting is commonly conducted by the project manager, team members involved, and key representatives from the customer and contractor side.

Lessons learned are extremely relevant for project managers because they enable teams to gain knowledge from the process of conducting a project; both the good and the bad. The idea behind this process is to learn what the positive aspects were in order to repeat them in future projects and to make adjustments in order to not repeat the mistakes that were made throughout the project’s lifecycle. These aspects may refer to methodologies, teams, processes, or systems.

Recognizing the Good And the Bad

In the long run, lessons learned can greatly improve how companies execute projects because they help capture, document, and update the necessary information to keep projects on track. Also, they enable teams to think and to consider what’s working well and how it can be improved.

When conducting a lessons learned meeting you have to consider both the good (wins) and the bad (issues or problems). A win, naturally, is something that led to a positive outcome, which is something that you’ll want to repeat in your future projects. An issue, on the other hand, is something that negatively impacted any aspect of your work.

The Four Steps

The lessons learned process involves 4 steps that will help you capture the information and allow you to use it along the way. These steps are:

  1. Identifying. This step should help you identify the recommendations that can be learned. Treat them as valuable knowledge assets for your future projects.
  1. Documenting. You will want to document detailed information. Keep note and write down lessons learned during meetings and discussions and make it into a report that participants can later read. This information will be very useful in projects to come.
  1. Analyzing. Once the information has been gathered and distributed, you can analyze and internalize it so that it can be successfully applied in future occasions. 
  1. Storing. Storing lessons learned is vital and they should be available for team members. These can be used for training sessions and planning meetings.

How to Document Lessons Learned

The key aspect to keep in mind is that you’ll want to document the most valuable insights you learned so that you don’t repeat any of the mishaps that occurred during the entire process. 

  1. Wins and issues. Classify your lessons into wins (the good) or issues (the bad).
  2. Description. Write a detailed description of the lessons. Be very specific; if it’s a win, explain why it succeeded. If it was an issue, describe why it failed and how it happened.
  3. Impact. When managing projects, each action represents a possible impact. Whether it was a positive or a negative impact, describe the result, and explain the consequences it brought. 
  4. Future work. Describe how the work you have completed may change or impact future projects. Will your company benefit from it? Will future team members, or projects?
  5. Steps to come. Outline the specific action items you will take in order to address your wins and issues. Especially your issues. This will help you take the necessary precautions in order to not repeat any negative scenarios and to improve your work.

Lessons Learned Template

Being able to identify what worked and what didn’t, is the one thing that will make you be better at your work. If you want to get better results, you should reflect on what was learned at the end of every project. By taking the time to write and to conduct lessons learned, you will be taking a productive approach, one that will have a positive impact on your future projects.

Gantt charts can be of great help when conducting lessons learned. An online project management software such as Instagantt can help you write, conduct, and store lessons learned for each of your projects. You will be able to easily categorize your wins and issues and to describe their outcome and their impact. Most importantly, you will be able to collaborate with your team, allowing them to participate in the process in an active way. This way, information becomes available for everyone, right now and in the future, too.

Lessons Learned Template

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