Project learning legacies
I’ve just returned from a week in the UK having had some great project
conversations. One thing that really struck me was the emphasis on learning legacies. This
has particularly taken off in the engineering and construction industries where
learning legacy portals are being made publicly available.
These legacy learning sites aim to share knowledge and insights across the profession. As the Crossrail legacy site so aptly puts it – they want to promote a
‘pinch with pride’
attitude to encourage projects to learn from what has happened before.
Our work on lessons learned, which came out
of the Success Stories Shared initiative in South Africa, suggested that:
Despite 80% of projects running PIRs, less than 20% of PIR reports were ever re-accessed, and there was little evidence of organisational learning.
Lessons identified only become lessons
learnt once the collected knowledge is used
in current or future projects. There needs to be a transition space created
where a shift takes place, and vital
knowledge is not simply stored away in files, not being accessed, but rather
becomes implemented on a practical project level. But who is responsible for
this shift from lessons identified to lessons learnt and how can it be
It is interesting to see in sites such as
the Major Projects Knowledge Hub
that there is an emphasis, not only on sharing stories
but also on connecting networks of experts across the industry.
Perhaps there needs to be a conceptual
shift between the process of identifying lessons and actually learning lessons. If learning results in change, then what
usually takes place at the end of a project would be the identification of a
lesson. Rather than having lessons identified as one of the outcomes of the
project, it should be seen as the start
of the process that develops the lessons that are genuinely learnt and thus, by
In one retail company in South Africa, we have seen this approach embedded in the process of starting a project. The project motivation documentation requires
the project manager and sponsor to agree on which previous projects the new
project is most similar. There must be some evidence that information
and learning from these projects have been taken
into account. After four years of this
in action, both sponsors and projects
managers are unanimous in their view – it is crazy not to do this!
Perhaps the best known and earliest portal
in the UK was that set up following the 2012 London Olympic games:
This is now in an archive state but here are some others that are very
much alive and worth following:
I’m sure there must be more across the world. Please do share information about any others you know.
Our new book, Adaptive Project Planning, uses stories gathered from lessons learned in projects across the world. It is now available on Amazon.