During the duration of a project, team members will usually stumble upon some lessons along the way from problems they encountered. These problems, and their solutions, are usually discussed in meetings, so that team members know what to do the next time they arise. They are then recorded in a document called a Lessons Learned Template for future reference. In this post, we review this document, its uses, and how it plays into project management.
What Is a Lessons Learned Template?
A Lessons Learned Template is a customizable document that is used to record the lessons learned by a team during a project for future reference. It collects and stores knowledge gathered across the organization and can be used to inform future decisions for upcoming projects. Generally, the document helps team members remember what to do and what not to do during a given scenario.
Why Use These Lessons Learned Templates?
Einstein once defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.’ This famous saying is true of many things in life, including how you do things in the workplace. While it is important to keep company traditions alive, you cannot keep doing things a certain way just because ‘that’s how you’ve always done it even when the results are clearly suboptimal.
The lessons learned template helps you avoid this problem altogether by reviewing all the work done to pinpoint areas of weakness that could be adjusted for future success. It is a great way for a team to learn from its mistakes and optimize software, systems, and processes within the company. For example, if you print brochures on A3 paper and find they are too big to fold, you can add this to your lessons learned template so that, next time, you use smaller paper.
Lessons Learned Templates & Examples
How to Make a Lessons Learned Template
A well-drafted Lessons Learned Template should make activities, planning, and processes within the company easier. To do this, it must capture every crucial detail about each lesson learned by the team. Here is a short guide on how to create such a template:
Step 1: Define the Project
The first step is to define the project from which the team will learn the lessons you will put in the template. You should indicate the project name, current date, name of the project manager, and a short description of what the project entails. Additionally, you should state the names of all the team members involved as well as the client and key stakeholders.
Step 2: Establish Your Objectives
Next, you should determine why you are gathering the lessons. Arrange a meeting with your team and discuss and agree on the format, data collection strategies, analysis methods, and dissemination strategies you will use to handle the gathered lessons.
Step 3: Collect Data
Now, you need to gather the information you will need to collect the lessons you will include in the template. You can use structures and unstructured processes like meetings, focus groups, and critiques. Also, you can review past experiences – both positive and negative – that show how certain activities resulted in desirable or undesirable results.
Step 4: Verify and Synthesize the Information
Take all the lessons submitted in the previous step and verify them for accuracy and applicability. You can involve expert interviews and other analysis methods to determine whether a lesson is:
- Relevant to other projects within the company
- Applicable to the entire company
- Only applicable in a given department
Step 5: Store the Information
Incorporate all the verified lessons into a database that all your team members can access for reference. You should store the information so that it is easy to share, and users can identify specific lessons by searching familiar keywords.
Step 6: Disseminate the Information
Lastly, you need to disseminate the stored lessons to everyone who can benefit from them. You may need to revise company processes after sharing the lessons, so schedule a meeting with your team.
How to Use the Lessons Learned Template
Once you have created your template, you can use it to gauge the progress on a given section of work or an entire project. Usually, this depends on the length and complexity of your project, but most teams use it twice or once at the close of the project. The following are some pointers for using your template:
Start by opening your template in Excel and filling out the project information portion. You need to provide enough details here that any other person reading the template can understand to which project the document is referring. Some details to include are:
- Current date
- Name of project
- Project manager’s name
- Notes highlighting any additional information
- Client name, stakeholder name
- Short project summary
- Project budget, etc.
Next, fill in the columns with the lessons you and other team members learned during the project. You can use several fields here for clarification. They include:
- WIN or ISSUE: Put under Win all positive lessons and place all negative ones under ISSUE.
- Description: Add more details about each lesson learned.
- Impact: Describe the positive or negative impact of each lesson on the team and the activities. You can elaborate on how the lesson will change how you go about future projects.
- Action Items: indicate the actionable steps the team will take to address the Wins and Issues.
What Are Lessons Learned in Project Management?
Generally, lessons learned can become a discussion team members have around the office about steps or ideas they will implement or never repeat during a project. On a formal note, the project manager can arrange a meeting post-project to discuss the lessons with the client, contractors, stakeholders, etc., or their representatives, along with key team members. The meeting will include input from everyone present who will share what they liked and what they would like to improve.
Human beings make mistakes, and a great way to rise above this in the workplace is to keep a Lessons Learned Template that records all the lessons you learn during a project. Doing this will help you review the activities and policies that are working and those that need improvement. It will also help streamline your company processes and achieve success in future projects while saving on resources.