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Lessons Learned 06/17/2010

Posted by TBoehm30 in Project Management.
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I recently participated in a meeting to discuss the Lessons Learned during the recent ERP implementation.  Many projects skip this vital step because they don’t have time, or after a successful implementation, what’s the point?  This meeting turned out much better than I thought it would, and we actually documented a list of items to review for the next projects.

The project ended successfully, so we didn’t have to point fingers blaming anyone.  I have been to plenty of those types of meetings where nothing gets done except making people feel bad.  When it was my turn to talk, and I suggested improvements to the way we prepared for the Conference Room Pilots or Dry Run, I prefaced it by reiterating the successful nature of the project.   I couldn’t pin blame on lack of preparation because in the end everyone was prepared enough.

People did listen to the suggestions.  We still have 2 Business Units that will go live on the new ERP system, and they now have on idea of what issues they need to review to improve their chances of success.

The project manager for the software vendor attended the meeting.  During the project, there were times that he became defensive about his software.  He would come up with ‘reasons’ why it wasn’t their fault, or get upset with us about our tone.  During this meeting, however, he listened to everything in the spirit of constructive criticism.  He didn’t get too defensive on the phone and said that he would take our comments to an appropriate resource.  He responded in email with extra documentation that could have helped during the project (we actually had it, but some people didn’t know that), and will definitely help the last 2 Business Units in their project.

We spent some of the time patting ourselves on the back with the things that went well.  We didn’t just talk about the things on the project that went poorly or could have been done better.  We put in extra hours over the weekend before go-live and were totally prepared for that work.  Talking about that work and reminding everyone how great they did felt so much better than focusing only on the problems.  Reviewing the items that went well made everyone feel good about the work they did and prevented deep depression over our faults.

We concentrated on the actions we could have taken, or will take next time, to do better.  We tried to direct the discussions toward constructive criticisms instead of blame or complaints.  When the conversation turned more negative we directed it toward a more positive note.

I think everyone walked away from the meeting feeling good.  We documented a full list of items to keep in mind for the next projects.  Lessons were learned, and they will stick with those who learned them.

Putting in new technology is not easy.  We need to make sure we get better at it by improving each time we do a project.

For your next project, make sure to schedule time for the Lessons Learned meeting.  It will improve future projects, and people will be more comfortable with taking on the responsibilities of the project. 

While we didn’t create a list of questions beforehand, that would have been a good idea.  Send out a list of open-ended questions to prepare people for the meeting.  “What worked best?” “What could have worked better?” “What prevented goals from being achieved?” etc.

If you need to include many people in the Lessons Learned process, then send out a survey.  This could be done over email if you properly include everyone, and make sure that you follow up with summaries.

You may know it, but others may not, so spread the word: It’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.

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