Lessons learned sessions are now part of the standard way of doing things, even though we know them by any number of names: Lessons Learned, After Action Review, Navy Lessons Learned, Post Mortem, Post Partum, Retrospective, Team Reflection, Project Review, and more. By whatever name, the goal is to determine what would have improved performance in the effort underway or just completed, and what might help in future efforts.
A systematic method for uncovering potential nuggets is valuable, because it reduces the chance of overlooking something important. General Morphological Analysis (GMA), invented by Fritz Zwicky, can help [Ritchey 1998]. That's a fancy name for slicing the problem space into cells and examining those cells one by one.
Slicing the problem space along two dimensions is the easiest to imagine. For Lessons Learned, I like to use the dimensions Innovation by Audience.
- Along the Innovation axis, use five categories. "Keep" includes what worked well, and what we want to keep doing. "Start" includes things we want to start doing. "Stop" includes the things that didn't work, and which we want to stop doing. "Alter" includes adjustments that we believe would be helpful for future efforts. "Try" includes ideas for experiments for the future.
- The Audience axis is a list of roles, commonly called stakeholders. As we investigate each role, we imagine a conversation with people in those roles. We don't necessarily conduct actual conversations — many of these people are unavailable, and a few of them might not want to talk to us. The imaginary conversations are just tools we use to generate ideas. Audience roles can include the Project Management Office, the Team, Functional Managers, Senior Managers, Customers, Purchasing, Marketing, and so on. For this discussion, let's go with these seven roles.
In this way, we create a 5x7 matrix with one cell for each Innovation by Role combination. For each cell, we consider what we might ask or tell someone in that role about some particular Innovation.
For example, A systematic method for uncovering
potential nuggets is valuable,
because it reduces the chance of
overlooking something importantwe might consider telling a Functional Manager to stop substituting one team member for another, and then explain why. We wouldn't necessarily say this to a Functional Manager, but imagining saying it gives us a way to uncover an issue that we might then examine to determine what we can do to improve performance. This example leads to a suggestion that we plan more thoroughly for handling the risk of team member substitution.
By repeating this investigation for all 5x7=35 cells of the problem space, we might discover lessons to be learned that we might otherwise overlook.
Overlooking a lesson is one thing; being reluctant to talk about it is another. People can be reluctant to say aloud what they can easily imagine saying to senior management. To provide some safety, consider collecting suggestions for all cells anonymously.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Some Costs of COTS
- As a way of managing risk, we sometimes steer our organizations towards commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)
components, methodologies, designs, and processes. But to gain a competitive edge, we need creative
- How to Make Meetings Worth Attending
- Many of us spend seemingly endless hours in meetings that seem dull, ineffective, or even counterproductive.
Here are some insights to keep in mind that might help make meetings more worthwhile — and maybe
- Self-Serving Bias in Organizations
- We all want to believe that we can rely on the good judgment of decision makers when they make decisions
that affect organizational performance. But they're human, and they are therefore subject to a cognitive
bias known as self-serving bias. Here's a look at what can happen.
- Hill Climbing and Its Limitations
- Finding a better solution by making small adjustments to your current solution is usually a good idea.
The key word is "usually."
- Office Automation
- Desktop computers, laptop computers, and tablets have automation capabilities that can transform our
lives, but few of us use them. Why not? What can we do about that?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 3: Capability Inversions and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
- A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable about the work involved or its purpose than are the people doing that work. In capability inversions, the Dunning-Kruger effect can intensify group dysfunction, sometimes severely disrupting the effort. Available here and by RSS on June 3.
- And on June 10: They Don't Reply to My Email
- Ever have the experience of sending an email message to someone, asking for information or approval or whatever, and then waiting for a response that comes only too late? Maybe your correspondent is an evil loser, but maybe not. Maybe the problem is in your message. Available here and by RSS on June 10.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.
Here are some dates for this program:
- Time: 12:00 Eastern Time. Place: Wherever you are. It's a
Webinar.: June 24, Monthly Webinar, sponsored by Technobility Webinar Series. Register now.
- Time: 6:00 PM Eastern Time. Place: Wherever you are. It's
a Webinar.: June 24, Monthly Webinar, sponsored by Technobility Webinar Series. Register now.
- Time: 12:00 Eastern Time. Place: Wherever you are. It's a Webinar.: June 24, Monthly Webinar, sponsored by Technobility Webinar Series. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.