Learning occurs on every project. Lessons learned is the learning gained from the process of performing the project (PMI, 2004, p. 363). We learn from our own project experiences as well as the experiences of others. Project managers, team members and leadership can all participate in the lessons learned sessions, review the lessons learned reports and make decisions on how to use the knowledge gained. Sharing lessons learned among project team members prevents an organization from repeating the same mistakes and also allows them to take advantage of organizational best practices. Innovative approaches and good work practices can be shared with others. Lessons learned can be used to improve future projects and future stages of current projects.
It is not necessary to wait until the end of the project for the learning to occur. Lessons can be identified at any point during the project. A lessons learned session should be conducted at different time frames based on the criticality and complexity of the project. Key times are at the end of the project, at the end of each phase and real-time – when you learn the lesson. If you wait until the end the project for a large project you miss some of the key lessons. Because of the time that has elapsed, project team members may forget some of the things they learned or team members assigned to the project in the early phases may no longer be part of the project during the later phases. The best time to begin discussing lessons learned is during the project kick-off meeting.