What does project management and insanity have in common? Nothing, unless your project teams suffer from what Albert Einstein defined as insanity: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
The increasing pace of change in the workplace causes me to wonder, do we take enough time to learn from experience as processes and personnel are constantly changing. In my opinion, to successfully learn from experience, we need to take a regular and consistent approach that can be incorporated into any work management methodology.
Here are a few suggestions to help any project team learn from experience:
Establish a venue for sharing lessons learned: It doesn't matter whether you call it a post-mortem, a project review, or a project retrospective, most organizations don't do them—but they should. It's a real shame that many project teams move from one project to another without even taking a breath, let alone taking the opportunity to capture lessons learned from the last project.
Share what has been learned: Although most organizations don't bother with a project retrospective, those that do don't always create an environment that encourages learning—and even fewer share what was learned. If lessons learned are captured and then tucked away in a file somewhere, the lessons are of no value. Not only your own team, but other teams within the organization can benefit from lessons captured upon the completion of a project.
Don't make learning the next corporate initiative: It's natural for organizations to try to formalize the learning process into the next corporate project. Although the natural learning process should be encouraged, "corporate" is all too often the same as "bureaucratic," which employees are more likely to avoid.
Don't make learning a one-time activity: Project learning should be ongoing and interactive. Don't let it become an isolated activity that happens rarely.
No two organizations are exactly the same. For that matter, no two projects are exactly the same either. There are some companies that rely on project management software to facilitate project learning. It think that's great, but even organizations that don't use a specific project management tool can create an environment where project learning can take place. What does your company do to capture best practices and learn from experience?