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What is a Lesson Learned

A lesson learned is a useful collation of management information gained through experience that we should retain for future use.  Depending on the lesson, it could be a valuable technique or an outcome that we wish to repeat or it could be an undesirable result we wish to avoid. Often, identifying our lessons learned is as simple as asking the question, “What worked well or what didn’t work so well?” Lessons learned can be categorized as:

·    something learned from experience,

·    an adverse experience that is captured and shared to avoid a recurrence,

·    an innovative approach that is captured and shared to promote repeat application, or

·    the knowledge acquired from an innovation or an adverse experience that leads to a process improvement.

Why are lessons learned important?

Ultimately, lessons learned are a matter of improving the productivity and efficiency of a process. Individuals or teams can benefit from the knowledge gained through the experience of those who have gone before them. Many organizations that label themselves as “learning organizations” often overlook their own experiences as a platform for learning. They assume that their collective experiences are passed along to the next person or group. To be considered a learning organization we must be proactive, capture lessons learned, and “cross-pollinate” the concepts through training or other techniques that expose the information to others who may benefit from it. The application of lessons learned helps produce teams which operate with less risk of failure, increased efficiency, and more awareness of their surroundings.