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? rbrenXAYKnJXPXtdjkHnEner@ChacPSsEFdqzsJvobtbFoCanyon.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:
- When Your Boss Attacks Your Self-Esteem
- Your boss's comments about your work can make your day — or break it. When you experience a comment
as negative or hurtful, you might become angry, defensive, withdrawn, or even shut down. When that happens,
you're not at your best. What can you do if your boss seems intent on making every day a misery?
- A Message Is Only a Message
- When we receive messages of disapproval, we sometimes feel bad. And when we do, it can help to remember
that we have the freedom to decide whether or not to accept the messages we receive.
- Figuring Out What to Do First
- Whether we belong to a small project team or to an executive team, we have limited resources and seemingly
unlimited problems to deal with. How do we decide which problems are important? How do we decide where
to focus our attention first?
- The Artful Shirker
- Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around
them don't realize what's happening. Here are a few of the more sophisticated shirking techniques.
- How to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
- When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting."
We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
- And on April 3: Career Opportunity or Career Trap: I
- When we're presented with an opportunity that seems too good to be true, as the saying goes, it probably is. Although it's easy to decline free vacations, declining career opportunities is another matter. Here's a look at indicators that a career opportunity might be a career trap. Available here and by RSS on April 3.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenSMDLOPpJJcUspkemner@ChacjTXIubEsDjXibtgxoCanyon.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, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
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
- 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.