The 12 Rs of High Performance Lessons Learned

One of the biggest requests I have had over the last 5 years or so has been to rescue lessons learned projects that have failed. At the heart of what we do sits the 12 ‘R’s of High Performance Lessons Learned:

 Usually lessons Learned in organisations have been designed by engineers/Project Managers/(insert function here) for engineers/Project Managers/(insert function here). The problem is that these people are experts at doing their job, they are not learning design experts. And therein lies the problem.

 The 12 ‘R”s for High Performance Lessons Learned provide a rich insight into people, quality, performance and value:

 For example, we conducted a system test and demonstrated that lesson captured by engineers were being uploaded but could not be located by other users. For example, we located an interesting lesson that spoke about a process change and asked 10 engineers to locate the same lesson we had found. In each case the engineer, using key-words typical to the problem discussed in the lesson, did not present the document we had previously located.

 We spoke directly with the Lessons Learned Project management team about access rates, re-use rates and impact/results from the lessons captured. The managers were not able to provide any evidence for a lesson being accessed, re-used or how the LLP had created an impact. This equated to zero value being linked to a LLP that had cost in excess of $1.3 million over a two year period. This included zero ROI on:

  •  LLP staffing costs

  • Investment and maintenance costs of the software platform

  • Costs associated with 1300 engineers completing a lessons learned template that required, on average, 5 hours of input from 5 staff – a total of 32,500 man-hours).

We surveyed the users to ascertain their feelings toward the LLP. The feedback was extremely negative. Engineers made statements such as, “85% of what is in [the lessons learned] just doesn’t make sense and I have 30 years of experience” or “nobody uses it, you can’t find anything useful and it is just a tick box, something we have to do and we just work to get it done.” The LLP management team had peer reviewed content which they did. However, they did not peer-review the document for quality of content, only whether the content was accurate. There was no consideration for whether the most valuable knowledge was being captured or what the most valuable knowledge actually was.

Unfortunately, examples such as this are far too common and undermine the value of lessons learned/learning lessons in organisations.

What could you learn from the 12 ‘R’s? Are you wasting your time capturing low value learning with your current Lessons Learned Project? How do you know if you have a high performance LLP?

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