Lessons learned is a fundamental part of effective programme and project management. Lessons (both positive and negative) should be collected, recorded, written up and communicated as part of the formal closure process.

Capturing lessons learned

Lessons learned is a useful means of sharing information from previous programmes and projects with others. Lessons are usually presented in the form of recommendations on the way forward or highlighting where potential improvements or modifications could be applied.

Programmes or projects where methods such as Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) or PRINCE2 are used are required to produce formal lessons learned as part of a structured approach.

The failure to learn lessons from previous experience is a constant feature of Audit and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reports and is a characteristic of many unsuccessful public sector programmes and projects.

Purpose of sharing lessons

The purpose of recording and sharing lessons learned includes:

  • avoiding making the same mistakes as others
  • improving on current delivery standards by adopting proven good practice
  • responding to changes in the programme and project management environment including new government priorities, initiatives and strategies
  • contributing to organisational growth and maturity by effecting long term improvements in the way an organisation embeds and shares programme and project management best practice

Sources of lessons learned information

Lessons learned information should form part of programme or project documentation but it can also come from independent review or audit. Examples of potential sources of lessons learned material may include:

  • programmes or projects run under formal management methods, for example MSP or PRINCE2
  • DoF Supply comments or correspondence with programmes or projects
  • informal information sharing events or communities of interest, for example the Programme and Project Management Community of Interest
  • HM Treasury, Office of Government Commerce and Cabinet Office Infrastructure and Projects Authority best practice
  • Construction and Procurement Delivery (previously Central Procurement Directorate) procurement best practice
  • Achieving Excellence for construction initiative
  • Gateway or other assurance reviews of programmes or projects
  • NI Audit Office and internal audit reviews and reports
  • Lessons learned in the NI public sector including Public Accounts Committee reports

Roles and responsibilities for reporting lessons learned

Under the direction of the senior responsible owner and management board, the programme manager or project manager is responsible for:

  • recording and collating lessons learned material throughout the programme or project lifecycle
  • producing a lessons learned report

For projects, this should form part of the project evaluation review document. Centrally, the Centre of Expertise for Programme and Project Management (CoE) has responsibility for the production of generic Gateway review lessons learned based on final review reports.

CoE also facilitates the sharing of lessons learned through events or forums such as the PPM Community of Interest.

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