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Lessons Learned: Why don’t we learn from them?

The question that is often asked amongst many of us in project management is ‘why didn’t we learn from that experience? Albert Einstein said ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So why do we accept ‘insanity’ as the path of project management?

The next time you are in a meeting just try this out. Whether you are presenting or someone else it doesn’t matter but what happens when the inevitable happens, you go to write something on the flipchart or the whiteboard and the pen is dry. How many of you (and I freely admit I am just as guilty) put the pen down on the rack again, pick up another one and carry on with the key, interesting, important point you were making. Thereby leaving the same dry pen for the next person – or worse, for yourself to do the same thing again a little later in the meeting.

Did you expect the pen to magically refill itself? Of course not, madness!

Did you put the pen in the bin and ensure that a new one was put in its place, or at least noted for someone that new pens were required? Of course not, madness!

A simple lesson in lessons learned, or the process of not learning to be more precise.

So are we programmed to not learn lessons?

Clearly not, if that was the case then we would have wiped ourselves out as a race a long long long time ago.

So why don’t we learn lessons when it comes to project experiences?

Well I think that in actual fact we do, or personally we do. Our personal project experience has to be a learning experience (even if that learning experience is ‘I am getting out of project management and finding a real job to do…’).

No, we do learn and we do progress and grow as project managers and we are all the better for it.

The challenge comes from sharing the knowledge of those lessons amongst others, and in learning from others experience in return. It is a matter of scale and capability all mixed in with time and priorities.

It is not the process of binning the empty pen and replacing the pen but in letting others know what and why you did that and how it can benefit them in the future and why they should also pass on this piece of knowledge.

It is less ‘lessons learned’ than ‘lessons shared’.

So the next time you go to write something on the flipchart or the whiteboard and the pen is dry stop – turn to face your audience and say ‘Right this pen is going in the bin and let me tell you why …’

Tags: Project Management

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ - ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. In the last 3 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations…
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Mário H TrentimSteve PrenticeElizabeth HarrinJim MillikenFrancis NormanPeter TaylorRobert KellyDave WakemanElizabeth Grace SaundersStephen DaleConrado Morlan, PgMP, PMPSteven StarkeLisa AndersonJoe PalkoKayla A. Roxas