Capturing lessons learned

Capturing lessons learned

How can we extend the value of lessons learned in project management?


  • A large number of project managers operate in an industry where the projects they manage will have similar components and attributes as previously managed projects
  • People move on. They find new positions or new careers. When a person who has put thousands of hours into a project moves on and there is no lessons-learned documentation or previous communication, what happens to the knowledge gained by that person on the thousands of hours put into the project work?
  • People tend to be territorial about the knowledge they have gained. They may see what they know, and only they know, as job security
  • Project communication is an input to risk monitoring and control, and much of the communication about problems and risk factors would occur at a lessons-learned meeting
  • Lessons learned studies are traditionally thought of as concluding activities only. This view fails to ensure their application by future project teams

“Take a profit from your loss”
Anonymous Japanese Proverb


Scott, S. Learn the Value of Lesson- Learned, Project Perfect Website, viewed 8 May 2010

India Case Study: urban development

To help revitalise the physical and social infrastructure, so that residents could improve their habitats while strengthening their sense of community, CHF International (an NGO) implemented the Sahbhagi Yojana 2 Support Programme (SY2SP) from 2003 to 2007. Funded by the US Agency for International Development, CHF implemented SY2SP in three cities in India’s western state of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara.

CHF faced large challenges when it began the programme, but the lessons learned have formed the foundation for current and future work in urban development. For instance, after beginning SY2SP, CHF and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) found that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) would not receive a World Bank loan (that all parties had been depending on) to enable the slum improvements to take place.

So, CHF had to revise the entire programme, using this unexpected challenge as an opportunity to turn it into an innovative programme, completely rebuilt as a model of integrated on-site slum upgrading. This brought together microfinance institutions, NGOs and community based organisations in a collaborative partnership to improve the living conditions of slum residents. (

Provide a platform for sharing

The value of lessons-learned sharing and communication should not be undervalued. It can be the difference between total project success and missing key milestones and project delay. (Scott Seningen)


  • Lessons-learned information sharing must be done in order to assist project managers on future and existing projects and to ensure that the same mistakes don’t happen twice
  • An effective communications and risk management plan should always include specific methods of sharing lessons-learned e.g. historical information
  • Recognise the importance of people who are willing to share their hard earned knowledge and experiences. It is critical to capture and, if possible, catalogue their knowledge
  • The method used to share knowledge does not have to be “high tech”. However, the easier it is for project managers to access and read the documentation, the higher the chance it will be used and the better the impact for your projects and/or program
  • Include lessons learned reviews as a front-end activity in the project life cycle