Lessons Learned - Project

Lessons Learned System Logo Effective sharing of knowledge and corporate experience across an organization is key to the efficiency and efficacy of the organization. One key vehicle to facilitate this is sharing lessons learned, both positive and negative. In every organisation, whether industrial or governmental, the quality of learning, advancement, and efficiency, depends very much on sharing of lessons learned and archiving institutional memory in an easily accessible manner. Although it is too often forgotten, history still repeats itself, and much 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.

This project deploys a holistic approach to Lessons Learned, including a number of critical and related multi-faceted activities, such as motivational presentations, workshops, events, training, and setting up of appropriate tools to support lessons learned in an organization.

What is Lessons Learned?

ESA Lessons Learned SystemAs outlined in the European Space Agency’s “Agenda 2007”, a need was recognized by ESA for improvement in the communication of knowledge and experience across the Agency. Particularly underlined was a need to learn from past experience, not repeat the errors of the past, and to build on successes. An initiative was therefore undertaken in ESA’s Directorate of Technical & Quality Management to improve and consolidate recording and accessing Lessons Learned across the Agency. Moreover, it was recognized that a Lessons Learned system is a prerequisite for ISO 9001 certification, to which the Agency has been striving to achieve for all its Directorates. This initiative resulted in the ESA Learned System.

Lessons Learned System LogoAnother important pillar of our holistic approach is spreading awareness of these lessons, their importance, and the value of sharing them. This method was successfully tested out at ESA, where monthly events were organized, at which experienced personnel presented what they learned in the course of their projects. These events were well advertised in advance using multiple communications avenues, such as announcement on the Agency website, email to personnel, and broadcasting on all displays across the Agency. The auditorium was equipped with streaming facilities to permit live broadcasting across to other Agency sites across the world.

Lessons Learned System LogoIn order to assure success it is 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. It is very natural that there are barriers to exposing one’s failures and sharing one’s secrets of success with potential competitors or adversaries. Thus the necessity for a training program and awareness campaign to sensitise the personnel to overcome these barriers and understand the advantages and need for investing effort towards sharing their lessons learned.

Lessons Learned System LogoQuality Management (QM) is critical in most production and testing operations, whether in industry on a production line, or in a testing laboratory facility. Ensuring that an adequate and useful Lessons Learned system accompanies these processes is paramount for successful operations and mandatory for ISO accreditation. An interesting example of introducing Lessons Learned to a testing laboratory is ESA’s cobalt-60 irradiation facility, for which our experts set up such a system. This was the first facility in ESA’s Product Assurance and Safety Department to apply for and receive ISO 17025 accreditation; the systematic and elegant approach was hailed as exemplary for Europe.