Sabotage The Project

Sabotage The Project – Lessons Not Learned

The PM was irritated.  “I know what I’m doing,” he snapped.  No doubt, he had a background in delivering this type of project and was pretty good at it.  He was one of the good guys too – never late with a report, never unprepared at board meetings, truly on top of his game.  Now he was starting up a new project and I was asking him about lessons learned.  Not his – but those of others.

“Sure, I know that.  But there’s a benefit to reading up on what other PMs have found in similar projects.  That’s why we collect lessons learned.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Look, I know you’re trying to help – but you’re not helping.  I don’t have time to go trawling through a bunch of closure reports.”

And there was the problem.  Or so I thought.  The lack of easily accessible lessons learned.  So I reported it up the chain, that we have a need for a centralised lessons learned library.  And obviously because I was the one that opened his mouth, I was the one that got to build it.  So, a week later I presented back to the Transformation team a whole library of nearly 2,000 lessons in a single Excel doc (it needed to be Excel, other methods were considered but all created some barrier – either technical or skill – that would continue to give the PMs an excuse to not use it).

“Ta da!”  Everyone was impressed.  Every lesson had been indexed so you could search for lessons based on a range of criteria including types of project and lesson categories.  It was rolled out to the community of about 20 PMs and several dozen BAs, PMOs and support staff.  It was announced by the director that all new projects would reference lessons from the library in their start up to demonstrate that learning was being used.

And guess what.  Nobody used it.  Out of 2,000 lessons – only the same 5 or 6, which featured in the first dozen of the sequential file were ever referenced.  And they were so generic they truly applied to nearly all projects – eg Must get most accurate estimates; must engage stakeholders earlier…

But over time I did see that the library was growing.  As projects closed, the PMO assigned to them would dutifully update the library by importing the new lessons.  But there were no new lessons.  It was the same mistakes over and over.  Strangely, “must learn from other project’s lessons” never did appear.  The lesson isn’t being learned.

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