Mistakes happen in every project. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face, which is rude. However, accepting mistakes as a part of life does not mean we all get a free pass to make the same ones over and over again. That would be dumb – and we’re not dumb. While it’s helpful to catalog our personal mistakes and lessons they taught you, there’s tremendous value in capturing those of our teammates, as well. That way, we don’t all have to slip on the same banana peel before someone gets up and throws it in the trash (not my best analogy, but you get the point). Here are some tips – and a free template – for capturing lessons learned as a team.
Not surprisingly, some of our best ideas for blog articles come from students in our training classes and from consulting clients. A few short weeks ago when I was teaching an ITIL Foundations class in Fairfax, Virginia, a student shared his professional background with me and asked for a little career advice. Let’s call him George.
Too often, leadership goes off-site, discusses their goals for the year, and comes down the mountain with the stone tablets engraved with annual strategy. At least that’s how it looks to those who work for them. Either way, the best strategy in the world is no use if it never turns into action. “If we build it, they will come” does not apply in this case. Yet, too many organizations spend lots of time and effort trying to the get the strategy part “right” and don’t spend enough time on action. We create something that looks and sounds great. We might even put together a catchy tagline or mantra for teams to repeat - and if we’re feeling super fancy, have marketing draw up some supporting graphics.
Et voilà! Mission accomplished. End of post.
We’ve all been there (or guilty of doing it ourselves): Leadership comes in one day and says, “Gather ‘round folks! It’s time to implement [Great New Best Practice Improvement Thing]!” The announcement is followed by a flurry of excitement and activity over the next several months: Leadership goes on a This is What We’re Doing and Why it’s Important tour and tons of meetings and/or trainings are scheduled in preparation for the Great New Best Practice Improvement Thing (GNBPIT). Then, a few months later, you notice the GNBPIT has quietly faded away, never to be heard from again. (It doesn’t write. It doesn’t call.)
I have spent the better part of my adult life working in Service Management. Whether it was office automation or IT, my career path has always been one of support for the business. When I transitioned from managing a team of administrative professionals in the legal field into IT, I thought I was making a huge course correction. Ironically, my new path was just a shiny, technology-driven side step. Days went from preparing hundreds of pages of legal briefs and colorful PowerPoint® presentations to modifying server configurations and troubleshooting e-mail. But it was all in the interest of keeping the business moving forward.
The next time someone tells you about a problem they’re having, avoid the temptation to give them advice – “You really should do [this].” Sometimes people aren’t looking for a solution at all, and if they are looking for answers, telling people what to do – as counter-intuitive as it may seem – is not the best way to change behavior. Rather, tell them a story about a time you made a similar mistake and what you learned from it.
Many of us, as project managers, are champions of process improvement and organizational maturity. We look for ways to get those around us to document their knowledge for the good of the organization and team. However, most of us are guilty of keeping our own knowledge in our heads. We do this to the detriment of our teams, companies, and even our own careers.