Should you do a lessons learned review for 2015?



This is my last blog for 2015. I wrote my last newspaper article for 2015 last week. It feels good to be done things, just like laundry, I love being done laundry – nothing in the hamper. 
I am a project manager, so projects that have a beginning, middle and end are right up my alley. What I have learned is that I view tasks like laundry; similar to how I view projects. I consider a timeline, the deliverables, and the approach. This means that I also plan when I will complete the project. This also means that having everything clean with no ‘new’ laundry by the time the old laundry is complete, is actually an accomplishment. Something to feel good about – a win.  
My husband doesn’t approach laundry the same way as I do, shocking I know. But he has no issue with the new coming in before the old is complete. Which makes my brain want to explode a bit because his approach means I am never done, it never ends, so I never complete the project or the task. It means in my project driven brain that I did not win, which also means that I did, fail. 
Can I change that? Maybe, but the truth for me is that I like projects, I Iike completing things, I like being done, and I like starting new…
And I like new years. I like them because I get to start new. I get to re-think things and take a breath. I get to consider a way to be better, and do better because each year is a project, and I’m grateful it has an end. Just like I am grateful it has a beginning. Maybe we should do a lessons learned at the close of a year? Maybe businesses should do it too? To really take a look at what occurred, what went well, what didn’t go well, and then analyze where you can improve.  
No one can predict what lies ahead, well, in my opinion, not with any real certainty. But a lessons learned can be very useful in mitigating risk because you are identifying areas that were unsuccessful and putting thought into how they can improve, or how your response or reaction can improve which in turn puts you in a position to mitigate that risk. 
The other benefit of a lessons learned review is that you identify successes, things that went well and things that you can be proud of. You identify things you can feel good about in concert with things that you can improve on. It is not meant to be a negative experience, quite the contrary. A project manager should want to do a lessons learned, should want to do a review of the good, bad and the ugly so that we can improve, because part of project management is continuous improvement. 
Here are some questions to get you thinking of your 2015, either personally or professionally, and should help you focus on what you want your 2016 to look like; 
Start with the GOOD
  • What were your successes in 2015? List them but don’t feel like you have to have a long list. One success can best as important as ten. 
  • What was the plan you developed that brought you to that success?
  • What actually happened that allowed you to be successful? Who and what.
  • What were the differences between your plan and the actual events that lead to the success?
  • What did the differences teach you?
  • How can you use those differences for future success? 

Move onto the COULD BE BETTER
  • What were your stumbling blocks in 2015? List them but don’t necessarily list every single thing that went wrong. Focus your attention on the things that set you back from your plan.
  • What was the plan you developed that contributed or created the stumbling point?
  • What actually happened that created the problem(s)?
  • What were the differences between your plan and the actual events that lead to the problem or failure?
  • What did the differences teach you? What can they teach others?
  • How can those differences create successes for you in 2016?
Lessons learned is not about focusing on the bad things that happened, it is about looking at where it went wrong, because things always go wrong, and where you can adjust your approach to have it go better the next time. Lessons learned are about focusing on the improvement, not failure, although being honest about the areas you fell down can make you better, if you choose, but that is up to you.

Wishing you all a very successful 2016.



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