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How To Evaluate Lessons Learned

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A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is useful both for navigating the fundamentals of project management and for evaluating lessons learned. It can help you determine if you focused on the right things in your project and where you could have improved.  

Consider each knowledge area of the PMBOK® Guide as you review your project. In the planning stage, for example, let's say you used brainstorming to develop your charter. Was the brainstorming effective? If so, what made it effective and if not, why wasn't it? Address these things in your lessons learned session.

Or, think about the risk management tools you used in your project. The PMBOK® Guide highlights such tools as 'The Probability and Impact Matrix' or the 'Data Quality Assessment.' If either was used during your project, in the lessons learned session you could analyze the ratio shown on certain risks or the integrity of the data.     

Here are three other ways you could apply the PMBOK® Guide principles to your meetings:

  • Check the knowledge areas as you plan your projects. After a project is completed, things will come to mind that you should have done differently. For example, let's say you accidentally omitted quality management from your planning. As you complete your lessons learned and check against the PMBOK® Guide knowledge areas, you might realize this omission. In your lessons learned, you can share that you should have selected the Pareto diagram, a histogram or high-low defect charts to identify problem areas in your project.
So even if it was not a knowledge area that you focused on during project planning and control, the PMBOK® Guide is still a good  reference to check your work against.

  • Refer to the PMBOK® Guide as a source of structure for your projects. Every project manager knows that projects can become chaotic. But if you relied on the PMBOK® Guide to control your project, then make that known in your lessons learned session. With the more positive outcomes from the project, you have a strong foundation and reasoning for structuring projects around the processes in the PMBOK® Guide. With the negative outcomes, you can know which areas to pay closer attention to next time.
  • Create lessons learned from using the PMBOK® Guide. When you're preparing lessons learned sessions, use the PMBOK® Guide to help create topics of discussion. Was there a tool or technique used in your project that could have been emphasized more as you managed a particular knowledge area?
For example, as you review estimating in your lessons learned, you could question whether the team should have relied on PERT (program evaluation and review technique) or the Monte Carlo technique.

Have you used the PMBOK® Guide for lessons learned? How?


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