Project Phases: Close

Suggestion for how/when to run lessons learnt for maximum success.

On projects I have worked on, often the project phase Close is the one that gets skipped or missed. This is due to a number of reasons including the project winding down, staff being demobilised, new projects starting drawing staff away from closing a project completely etc. 

One thing I have found really successful is to not leave the Lessons Learnt/Feedback section of a project until the Close phase. By the close phase often people don't contribute the best lessons and these are not reviewed, absorbed and taken forward into future projects successfully. 

I have had great experience running lessons learnt sessions more frequently throughout the implement phase of a project.

These are my suggestions but I would love to hear others feedback: 

  • Run the sessions fortnightly/monthly (this ensures not too much content to go through each time!) and make them fun casual so everyone wants to join! Normally this task probably fills everyone with dread!
  • Everyone get a cup of tea, drink and do them in the last hour on a Friday for example as it brings everyone together at the end of the week (obviously more impactful in person but still a nice way to wrap up the week on zoom!)
  • Keep group size just to the core project team (maximum 6 people) 
  • Have someone in the meeting write down the lesson, what is the action to resolve, who is the owner of the resolution and what date they are going to implement the change by. This can be reviewed at the start of the next session to track progress. 
  • Make sure all lessons learnt provided are about what happened (not who!) to avoid anything getting personal! The project manager should be able to chair and steer this but if things are tricky on a project, ask another project manager from the organisation to help chair the session (if they can spare the time) to be a neutral third party and help manage things. You can always rotate the chair each time to give different team members responsibility and experience running meetings.
  • Instead of everyone writing lessons into a lessons learnt log, I really like to use this  activity called Rose, Bud, Thorn (learnt from Design thinking): 
    • You give everyone 3 different colour post-it notes 
    • Pink = Rose = Things going really well 
    • Blue = Thorn = Things that are challenging 
    • Green = Bud = opportunities 
    • Get everyone to contribute at least a couple of each colour and stick on a big wall. This ensures everyone contributes and its quicker/easier than getting everyone to write in a big document! 
    • Roses - Then all stand up together and start reviewing each colour, grouping together the themes e.g. all these pinks relate to x  - the team can reflect on what they done really well. It's so nice to see all the small wins out on paper and see what some people see as success vs. others! 
    • Thorns - Group the thorns together and discuss - what are the current challenges, what is causing issues on the project. Again neutral and practical! This also gets any issues out in the air in a constructive way! 
    • Buds - opportunities - what are we not currently doing, what opportunities are there out of the challenges for us to change and update the way we are working. These can be discussed and any good ones that people like should then be documented into the tracker with assigned owners and dates for implementation. Often the quieter people on the project have amazing ideas but no forum to suggest them. 
  • Example of what they could all look like grouped together with themes: 


Go to the profile of Samantha Reynolds
over 1 year ago

Thanks so much for elaborating on this more Abby. I would definitely have to agree that lessons learned would be beneficial to visit throughout the implement. It also looks like a nice way to celebrate and acknowledge the little wins along the way too.

Go to the profile of Rosheen
over 1 year ago

Hi Abby good food for thought for frequently scheduled brief lessons learned during a program. I would imagine this would also help it the remembering of the lessons especially for projects that may take years. Also I imagine May open the dialogue for the need to adjust project plan (structured way). Team bonding would also benifit from regular touch bases. I really like the colour coding.