Every situation we encounter gives us an opportunity to learn.
A wise old quantity surveyor once told me that every practice’s set of Preliminaries were an attempt to avoid what had gone wrong on previous projects. I suppose the same could be said for risk registers, where all team members contribute opinions on what could go wrong on a project – inevitably based on their previous experiences – the lessons they have learnt.
In an industry where no two projects are the same, we are all continually learning and the knowledge we acquire from our involvement in each job not only contributes to our own experience and personal development but, if reflected upon and recorded appropriately, can be used to improve team and project performance.
Whilst we may hate to admit it, not every single project runs as smoothly as one might like. Despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions, hiccups occasionally occur. Whether we consider the problem to be the result of someone else’s failure or our own, open discussion about what has gone wrong is rarely comfortable and all too often escalates into a blame game – which is a missed opportunity.
To avoid the finger pointing exercise and get the best out of any lessons learnt it’s important to instigate a culture that promotes honest reflection and the willingness to learn. A culture which, encourages openness and acceptance of change and avoid blame and short termism.
At Daniel Connal Partnership we work hard to promote this culture. We hope that by sharing lessons learnt we not only all gain from each other’s experiences but that it also leads to a continuous improvement in our service and the smooth running of projects. We believe it’s important to look at what worked well as well, as what did not.
Adopting a lessons-learnt process of capturing knowledge from a project works even better when the whole project team is involved. It is obviously particularly useful on a phased project or framework agreement but is also really valuable on one-off projects. Moreover, it doesn’t need to be restricted to the end of the project. A process that allows reflection at regular stages throughout a project and records the knowledge gained can be particularly effective. Not just what’s going well and what’s not but also (the abbreviation beloved of teachers), EBI – even better if.
Oscar Wilde said that “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes” but by adopting a lessons learnt approach I believe experience can also be informed and developed by our successes.