Although it was already a long-used tool in the aerospace industry, and in project developments, the Lessons Learned gained a new focus recently with the inclusion of the item Organizational Knowledge in the 2015 version of ISO9001 standard. The standard itself cites Lessons Learned as one of the ways in which Organizational Knowledge can be based, as well as others.
But what are Lessons Learned?
Lessons Learned are the sum of all knowledge gained by experience or understanding. They can be positive or negative. They must be real or have an impact on the operations, that is to say, validly applicable in a factual and technical way, applicable to a design, process or decision, reducing or eliminating the potential for failures and accidents, or reinforcing a positive result.
For kids, talking about Lessons Learned is talking about Quality Management and Continuous Improvement.
How often in our organizations do we experience the same failure modes because we have not learned the lesson?
If your answer to the above question was something like "many," "several," "sometimes," it's time you considered deploying this method.
Lessons Learned can and should become a habit, must run in the blood. They may be born in an informal conversation, may arise individually or in team discussions, may arise even in the development of new project or process, but do we realize that they must be documented, so that others may have access to this accumulated knowledge of the organization?
This is the great balcony of this tool: transform it into documented information.
Topics in Lessons Learned
Let's create a team in our company to document Lessons Learned. We have the personnel of Projects, Production, Quality, Processes, Financial, and etc. What are we going to discuss? The individual failures of those involved? Of course not! At this point it is very important to keep in mind that the focus here is on the processes, not the people! It is important to create a positive atmosphere for exchanging experiences, looking to the future, not complaining about the past.
We can start the process with some reflections about the event (project, process, etc.), such as:
- Were there any important experiences at the event?
- Have you met expectations?
- In what steps were we successful? Because?
- In what stages were we unsuccessful? Because?
- What are the consequences where we fail?
- Were there unforeseen or surprises (positive and negative)?
With these thoughts in hand, your team probably already has a list of lessons to highlight, right? Then it is time to organize these lessons. Let's try to demonstrate the lesson in four steps:
- What happened?
- Why did it occur?
- What is the consequence?
- What are the suggestions for upcoming events?
Start by identifying what has been successful, encourage everyone to participate, add the contributions by topic, and identify the lessons.
Keep in mind that the lessons can be accessed by people who did not follow the event, so you and your team should ask themselves if anyone outside the event will understand what was written?
Documentation and dissemination
Create a format for recording and controlling Lessons Learned. It is important that it is comprehensive on the subject, but also easy to see. If you can document on a page with flashy graphic visuals, you can make the lesson look even if it's not necessarily being searched.
One example: some car manufacturers use murals where they expose Lessons Learned. They are released in the One Page Lesson format. They are very visual documents, with images and infographics, where at a quick glance anyone can understand the idea, even if they are not looking for lessons learned about a specific event.
The important thing is SPREAD the result of the Lessons Learned, so that the Organizational Knowledge increases, generating value for the projects, processes, and products and services.