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Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned (LL) are experiences distilled from past activities that should be actively taken into account in future actions and behaviors. In our environment of projects, lessons learned are the knowledge gained from the process of conducting a project. This includes the positives and negatives. The idea is to repeat the positive aspects and not repeat the mistakes. There are several definitions of the concept. One commonly used is:

“A lesson learned is knowledge or understanding gained by experience. The experience may be positive, as in a successful test or mission, or negative, as in a mishap or failure”

The purpose of documented lessons learned is to provide future project teams with information that can increase effectiveness and efficiency and build on the experience that has been earned by each completed project.

Conduct a formal “Lessons Learned” meeting

Before re-assignment of the Project Team Members, make sure to conduct a formal LL Meeting. Prior to this meeting, distribute a brief “Lessons Learned Questionnaire” to all Project Stakeholders.

Ideally, the questionnaire should solicit uniform, objective responses. Ask questions in the following broad categories:

  • Management Sponsorship
  • Project Objectives & critical success factors
  • Project Plan and Schedule
  • Project Team
  • Client/End User Involvement
  • Use of Technology
  • Client Acceptance Criteria
  • Project Monitoring
  • Project Communications

In addition to allowing spaces for comments under each topic/question, use a simple answer scale, such as:
0 = Don’t Know or Not Applicable

The scale for the answers can be numerical or by the wording and reaches from 1 = Strongly Disagree to 4 = Strongly Agree. We call this scale the “Forced Likert Scale“. It forces the people to decide on either “good values” or bad values. The scale does not foresee a neutral answer.


The project plan was well-structured.
O strongly disagree         O disagree        O agree       O strongly agree

The project plan was communicated precisely.
O strongly disagree         O disagree        O agree       O strongly agree

These are examples of typical questions for the preparation of a Lessons Learned Meeting.

The meeting

Lessons Learned meeting is a cooperative feedback session in which you validate what your team took down from the successes and mistakes of a project. These meetings are a way to collect commentary and compliance and should include everyone on the team.

Lessons Learned Meeting

Discuss the items found from the evaluation of the survey and bring them to usefully and decently formulated recommendations. Use the document for future projects.

Evaluate the survey before the meeting and find out the most satisfactorily and negatively assessed things from the answers. Discuss shortly the positive feedback and formulate it- you can use it later in the report or for future projects as best practice. Perform a longer-lasting discussion about the negatively mentioned items. Try to get amendment proposals for these issues and summarize them in the Lessons learned report.

Further proceeding

Lessons Learned are about learning from experience and actively applying the lessons learned in the future. By looking closely at the course of the project, strengths should be built on and risks for the current project and subsequent projects reduced.

If either time or assistance does not warrant the effort, simply ask for their perceived top 3 lessons learned from this project. Also, ask for their top 3 issues and how they would recommend planning for and eliminating those issues on a subsequent project.

Use the information from these questionnaires to facilitate discussions and the development of the feedback learned from the project for your project. All meeting participants should be in agreement on these lessons learned, and they should become a document in the project files. The top 3-5 lessons learned should also be mentioned in your final Project Report, to be delivered to your Project Sponsor.

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