It's easy to celebrate when a project goes well, commiserate when it doesn't ... and then go back to business as usual. But if you want to repeat that success or avoid that failure next time, you need to make sure everyone involved understands what happened. Then you can apply those lessons to making next time even better.
1. Build a Wrap-Up Meeting into the Schedule.
In the pace of day-to-day activities, we often feel that there's no time to sit down and figure out why things turned out as they did. Establishing a final meeting as an essential part of the project gives the team that time.
2. Take It Out of the Office.
Team retreats involve a more significant time investment, but can more than pay for themselves in improved processes and productivity. Even an afternoon in a nearby hotel meeting room can help people gain a clearer perspective on the causes of the project's success or failure.
3. Include Analysis in Every Meeting.
If a wrap-up meeting or retreat aren't feasible or necessary, try adding 10 minutes to the end of each progress meeting for discussion of knowledge needed or acquired. Ask what skills or process changes would enable the team to meet the project's goals better or faster, both this time and next time.
4. Make It Someone's Responsibility.
Assign a team leader or recorder to keep apprised of what's working or not working based on experiences of the team members executing the project.
5. Record It.
Thinking and talking about lessons learned is not enough. To really get that message across, it needs to be put into a tangible form that others can access. Your recording method might be regular reports emailed to the team, a knowledge management database or a SWOT or SOAR analysis.
Yes, capturing lessons learned is yet another task to fit into everyone's already busy day. But that's how we grow — individuals as well as organizations. The more you practice it, the more you realize it's more than worth the time you invest in it.