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Lessons Learned

As I close out a recent project I have been working on, I was reminded of the value and importance of the lessons learned review. No matter the size or subject of the project effort, there are always things that went well and things that could have gone better and lessons learned. Retrospective on the project leads to a review of the complete picture that helps project managers and project teams learn from the experience. Taking these lessons learned and applying them to future work fosters continued growth and best practices adoption.

Project Close-Out should include this important step held at the end of a project. It is a discussion of the knowledge gained from the process of conducting a project, the successes and failures as a team, and an effort to repeat the positive aspects and not repeat the mistakes. This is also called a post-mortem, after-action review, wrap-up, project success meeting, or a retrospective.

Benefits of Reviewing Lessons Learned

There are many benefits of reviewing a project as a whole, and revisiting the project aspects of objectives, goals, project plan timeline, budget, tasks and milestones. Reviewing what these aspects were gives a clear picture of what occurred and why, what worked and what did not. Here are some great questions to review in your close-out retrospective:

  • Review the Project :

    • What was the project objective?

    • What were the project plan milestones and timeline?

    • What actually happened?

    • Did the plan change during the project? Why did it happen?

  • Assessment:

    • Successes

      • What worked well in the project?

      • What processes/tools were useful?

      • What processes should we use in the future?

    • Challenges

      • What did not go so well?

      • What tools/processes were not necessary or helpful?

      • Were there blockers to the challenges?

    • Results

      • Were the objectives met, did we get results we wanted?

      • Were there decisions made during project to take forward for future projects?

      • What lessons were learned?

      • What will you do differently next time?

Take it into the Future

As project managers encourage your project teams to learn from mistakes and successes. Put emphasis on what the team did correctly, as this can segue naturally into what was not done well and could use improvement. The goal should be to provide meaningful and constructive feedback and lead by example. Successful projects include this close-out retrospective and follow up with actionable items from the lessons learned review.


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