I have banged the drum all too frequently about the need for those engaged in projects to identify and share what they have learnt about projects and project management among fellow colleagues, but progress has been all too slow.
Take a client I worked with earlier this year. There were around 20 people in the room, all taking part in The Perfect Project Course.
They all carried out the same work, used the same procedures and processes.
But, they shared very little.
I asked how they shared learning at an individual or team level.
They did not.
The excuse? There were simply no mechanisms for talking about or sharing learning.
I then asked how many people were doing ‘similar projects’.
Hands went up.
I asked how useful it would be to share, say, risk management information or stakeholder management plans.
The response was very positive.
I suggested, as a post course exercise, that they examine how they can start to share more within their section. Whether they did….
Sadly, this is all too common a situation.
Identifying Project Management Learning Opportunities
So how can we start to identify project management learning and share this with others? Below are six suggestions.
1. Establish a Community of Practice (CoP)
A Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of people who come together that share the same interests – in our case, project management.
Many organisations today see the benefit in hosting lunchtime sessions and forums where people can get together to discuss, debate, explore and learn about the topics that matter the most.
CoPs work well with a mix of internal speakers, guest speakers bringing an external view and some element of interactive exercise, for example, inviting the group to solve a key problem.
As the CoP grows in strength, becoming a permanent fixture, a whole range of supporting activities, like using the intranet to support the community, can be considered. The CoP can be anything you want it to be. [See Community of Practice (CoP) Success Story on YouTube
2. Re-engineer some of your project management processes
No I am not suggesting redesigning your project management processes, your company or your approach to professional development.
What I am suggesting is that on the business case, why not include a section that highlights what ‘lessons learned’ activities have taken place before the project even kicks off? For example what reports have been read and what learning has taken place? If this section of the business case has not been completed then there is no sign off for the business case. Realistic?
Why re-engineering? If you think about it, this will mean producing lessons learned reports and having somewhere to store them, allowing access to them from everyone in the company. Yes, there are lots of assumptions in this process however, please bear this in mind; Project Agency, my company, has trained over 15,000 people. Over that time, I have asked how many are doing repeat type projects – maybe not exactly the same, but similar to someone else’s project. Most people believe they are managing projects which are similar to ones previously run within the business.
3. More frequent lessons learnt and use someone independent
Creating ‘lessons learned’ is not easy. For some it means owning up to errors, for others saying they did well. We Brits can be a tad reserved doing both! Why not ask someone independent of the project to facilitate LL meetings? Incidentally, these should be part of the overall project monitoring process and held at reasonable intervals and not simply at the end of the project.
4. Give and receive more feedback
It may seem strange suggesting this as a possible solution to identifying learning but it is! Why? I have worked with many people who are full-time project managers or are professionals who have a project to manage. The vast majority of them don’t receive personal feedback of any kind. This is especially prevalent in organisations with structured performance management systems. If this is the case, then how can project managers expect to learn, how can they grow and develop further?
5. Have a failure/success wall
This is an idea from Dunn & Bradstreet that highlights just how well highlighting failure can turn towards learning and success. Why not take a moment or two to read the article? It is easy to do and easy to operate. One addition to the suggestion is that we learn from failures however we also need to learn from our successes too!
Here’s a great view on failure:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
6. Finally…..why not celebrate mistakes at work?
Yes, I know this is a bit far – fetched however we sometimes need to be challenged and an article by Alexander Kjerulf will certainly do that. He points to 5 reasons why we need to celebrate mistakes at work, the first being, “When you celebrate mistakes, you learn more from the mistakes you make”. Sounds intriguing yes? After all, “the person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” and as Project Managers we are always aware of how close failure can be to our projects.
Now these are only 6 suggestions. Why not let us have your ideas?
Of course, you can ignore the suggestions however why would you want to re-invent the wheel, why would you want to follow in the footsteps of those that failed? Would you like to save yourself some time and possibly money?
It’s up to you!
Ron Rosenhead is Chief Executive of Project Agency, a London-based Consultancy helping to make it easier for companies to deliver projects effectively. He is a speaker, trainer, Consultant and writes about project management issues. You can connect with Ron via twitter @ronrosenhead and you can check out his personal blog at www.ronrosenhead.co.uk or LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/ronrosenhead