Conducting Effective Lessons Learnt – The Preparatory Phase

Most process oriented teams these days perform a Lessons Learnt or Project Post mortem activity to figure out the improvements to be made as the team moves forward to future projects. This process also helps teams identify best practices within the team which need to be continued going forward. But, like any process, the effectiveness of the Lessons Learnt is determined by the manner in which it is implemented. In this article, we take a look at some aspects that can make Lessons Learnt an effective process.

Phases of Lessons Learnt Process

There are three distinct phases of the Lessons Learnt process. They are:

i)        The Preparatory Phase – Deals with the ground work required to identify major topics for the lessons learnt.

ii)       The Discussion Phase – Deals with the meetings during which topics are discussed and brainstormed.

iii)     The Follow up Phase – Deals with the follow up on the implementation of the action points identified during the Lessons Learnt.

Now let’s look at the preparatory phases in detail.

The Preparatory Phase

As the name suggests, this phase is the preparation before the actual meeting. The idea of this phase is to identify all the issues, topics, best practices that team members feel are important to be looked at. Most teams do a good job of discussing escalations and late issues i.e. issues which come later in the project lifecycle as they are fresh in the memory. But for Effective Lessons Learnt, it is very necessary to have a holistic view of the project. Also, with a bit of preparation the Lessons Learnt process can be made a proactive process to identify process and productivity improvements rather than just a reactive process on how to deal with issues and escalations.

Drivers in this phase: Project Manager (PM), Technical Leads (TL), Module Leads (ML), Architects

Participants in this phase: All Team members

Activities in this phase: Phase wise metric collection, Phase wise activity collection, List of issues, List of escalations, List of bugs with Root Cause Analysis, List of things that went well, List of things that did not go well, Project Metrics

Key Points to remember:

  • Often the onus of these activities lies with the PMs or the TLs. But if the process has to be effective active participation of team members is required. So assign activities to people and enroll them to collect this information. As PM/TL help them collect it effectively.
  • Apart from the list of issues and escalations, members need to look at activities with an angle of what can be improved. For e.g. if there is an activity that was repeated for a number of times, one might look at automation as an option even though there are no current alarms or escalations on this activity.
  • A quick initial meeting called by the PM/TL to explain the broad issues that they feel is important to discuss also helps team members come prepared for the Discussion Phase.

In the second part of this series, we will discuss about the Discussion Phase.

– C.V. Ram Narayanan Sastry

(Project Manager)



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