Learning from lessons learned: Project management research program
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When we fail to learn from our own mistakes or those of others, we tend to repeat the mistakes. This study discusses lessons learned as important ways of gathering and sharing both formal and informal project knowledge. The study presents findings of three studies from a research program on lessons learned. The first study is a content analysis of two sets of conference proceedings. The second study is a case study from the energy sector on lessons learned. The final study is a content analysis of the Project Management Body of Knowledge® Guide. The conference proceedings study indicated that the topic of lessons learned was under represented within the conference proceedings. This was in keeping with the literature review that the topic of lessons learned is emerging. The energy sector study shed light on the lessons learned process, best practices and challenges. The content analysis of the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide® showed that the guide defines lessons learned narrowly, primarily as a set of administrative, documented outputs pertaining mainly to the closeout phase. This was also evident in the guide’s commodification of lessons learned (and related terms). This study contributes to the fields of project management, knowledge management and workplace learning. Academics and practitioners use various terms to refer to lessons learned. Negative events often compel companies to add lessons learned practices to their project management processes. In order to conduct effective lessons learned, there has to be management support, the right stakeholders should be involved and knowledge should be shared in both codified and uncodified ways. Lessons learned are processes that involve formal and informal learning. Effective lessons learned can be embedded into a company’s practices, especially through informal learning and sharing practices, such as through Communities of Practice and by applying principles from workplace learning, such as situated learning theory.