As more and more organizations turn to project management best practices to increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace, I think it's important that we consider Einstein's advice in regard to how we approach the challenges of project-based work.
That being said, I acknowledge that projects are inherently risky and messy things (otherwise they wouldn't be projects in the first place), and many organizations' risk aversion actually hampers their ability to execute on meaningful and potentially profitable projects. However, we can (and should) take steps to anticipate challenges to prevent as many as is humanly possible and what's more, an often overlooked project management best practice is an invaluable tool to facilitate the the genius within.
Learning from experience is an important tool in project environments that are constantly changing. In my opinion, in order to successfully learn from experience, we need to take a regular and consistent approach that can be incorporated into any work management methodology. Here are a few suggestions to help any project team learn from experience:
- Establish a venue for sharing lessons learned: It doesn't matter whether you call it a post-mortem, a project review or a project retrospective, most organizations don't do them—but they should. It's a real shame that many project teams move from one project to another without ever taking a breath; let alone taking the opportunity to capture lessons learned from the last project.
- Share what has been learned: Although many organizations don't take the time to do any kind of project retrospective, very few of those that do share what they've learned. If lessons learned are captured and then tucked away in a file somewhere, the exercise doesn't do any good. Not only your own team, but other teams within the organization can benefit from a culture that freely shares lessons learned upon the completion of a project.
- Learning doesn't work as a "corporate" initiative: It's natural for organizations to try to formalize the learning process into a forced and contrived corporate project. Although a natural learning environment should be encouraged, "corporate" is all too often the same as "bureaucratic," which employees are more likely to avoid.
- Don't make learning a one-time activity: Project learning should be ongoing and interactive. Don't let it become an isolated activity that happens rarely.