Project management: Learning from experience

Today's tip comes from ITworld member Ty Kiisel, Manager of Social Outreach at AtTask, Inc.

As more and more organizations turn to project management best practices to increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace, there's one thing they're consistently forgetting to do: Learn from past mistakes.

Projects are inherently risky and messy things, but taking a regular and consistent approach to learning from experience can help reduce that risk. And while I freely admit that no two projects are exactly alike, this learning can be incorporated into any project management methodology.

Here are a few suggestions to help any project team learn from experience:

1. Establish a venue for capturing lessons learned: Whether you call it a postmortem, a project review or a project retrospective, the fact is the same: Most organizations don't do them. Many project teams move from one project to another without ever taking a breath, let alone taking the opportunity to capture lessons learned from the last project.

2. Share what has been learned: Even among organizations that do take the time to do a project retrospective, very few of them actually share what they've learned. If lessons learned are captured and then tucked away in a file somewhere, the exercise doesn't do any good. Not only your own team, but other teams within the organization can benefit from a culture that freely shares lessons learned upon the completion of a project.

3. Learning doesn't work as a "corporate" initiative: It's natural for organizations to try to formalize the learning process into a forced and contrived corporate project. "Corporate" is all too often the same as "bureaucratic," which employees are more likely to avoid.

4. 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.

Regardless of your project management methodology, it's important to create a culture and environment where project learning can take place. What does your company do to capture best practices and learn from experience?

More project management tips by Ty Kiisel:
4 tips for a happier project team
Want to be a project leader? Hone these 5 traits for project management success
9 signs your project may be in trouble

What’s wrong? The new clean desk test
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