Why Lessons Learned?

Although it is all too often forgotten, history still repeats itself; and lessons can be learned from past experience. Repeating mistakes or ignorance of useful experience can cost an organization dearly.

The quality of sharing knowledge and experience amongst personnel is paramount towards an organization’s success and effective deployment of effort. In order to learn from past experience, and not repeat the errors of the past, and build on successes, there is a need to share lessons learned.

Tying together some 40 years of professional experience Dr Kass has recognized the importance of knowledge management and sharing corporate knowledge in an organization. As staff move to different responsibilities or retire, lessons that are learned are most often forgotten and the same mistakes are repeated over again.

Large organizations have begun to take Lessons Learned seriously

To counter this problem at the European Space Agency, Kass created a Lessons Learned System for ESA with a holistic approach embracing a browser-based tool and thematic events.

Recently, the European Commission has also recognized the importance of Lessons Learned and invited Dr Kass to speak and hold workshops on the subject (e.g. at the Learning Week held in Brussels in June 2015). The EC also fostered adoption of Lessons Learned in projects they support, e.g. the Engaged project invited Dr Kass to lead a round-table discussions on the subject (Feb 2014). More recently, Dr Kass was invited to moderate a session on Education at the 2nd Chance symposium sponsored by DG-GROW, because learning and sharing lessons is paramount as part of the educational process to prevent bankruptcy or to take effective and timely corrective measures even before early warning alarms ring.

The need for an holistic approach

The key to success is to approach the issue holistically. Simply creating an application, issuing a directive, or introducing a process, does not guarantee success – on the contrary, an inadequate approach can lead to failure in the first instance, thus discouraging association with the project.

It is therefore important that the working culture of the organization, the needs, psychology, habits, and dynamics are all taken into account, in addition to its technical and organizational infrastructure and hierarchy.

The success of introducing a tool to collect and archive explicit knowledge in the form of lessons learned, and a process to implement it, goes hand in hand with an awareness campaign and a training programme. The first goal has to be to ensure that the personnel of the organization are on board with the project and understand the advantages and need for investing effort towards this end. In fact, it should actively be encouraged that staff take ownership of the project!

An holistic approach includes:

  • Lessons Learned Process and Procedure
  • Lessons Learned Archive: Website and Database tool
  • Incorporating analysed data from User Feedback App
  • Awareness campaign and training programme
  • Lessons Learned Events
  • The social aspect: Ownership, Rewards & Recognition

In order to have a consistent and coherent approach to populating and utilizing a Lessons Learned system, a process accepted across the organization and at all levels is a prerequisite.