Lessons learning can be applied in most organisational settings including the example of crisis management at DTE Energy. However, imagine a scenario where the team responsible for the launch of a new product or service had made its lessons available to others. It is quite possible that further new product development can be enhanced through better processes and thereby getting the product to the market in quicker time.
As we all learn every day and then this learning is captured, perhaps within an AAR, then the lessons need to be organised in a way that is meaningful for others in the organisation. Some form of storage system is required – a database where lessons can be searched and located.
It makes sense for someone to take the responsibility for making the lessons more visible through a communication programme than will enable people to know the types of lessons available and how they might be of benefit.
Finally, the lessons need to be integrated into working practices. For example, it makes sense that prior to the commencement of a new project, the project leader analysises available lessons in order that the new project does not replicate past mistakes or draws on the successes of other relevant projects. This mobilisation of knowledge is illustrated in the figure.
With clear and demonstrable business benefits lessons learned programmes can play a part in establishing learning as a key performance driver. Reflection need not be an individual activity, but can be experienced as a collective process although the two need not be mutually exclusive. There are a number of different reflective practices supported in knowledge management programmes including ‘significant milestone reviews’, ‘post project reviews’ and ‘peer assists’.
However, not all organisations have coherent and systematic approaches to knowledge management. Where knowledge management programmes do not yet exist in the organisation, the skills and attributes needed to establish lessons learned programmes include the ability to facilitate an AAR process; an understanding of organisational learning needs; an effective use of existing communication channels and the motivation to make learning opportunities a part of the very fabric of the organisation. Surely, this is a role for HRD professionals. If not you, who?
* Michael Kelleher is a Senior Consultant at CIBIT consultants/ educators and is based in Wales. He is a Visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent University.
Mike can be contacted at [email protected]