Lessons are an important element of any organisation's efforts to improve performance.
As trailed in the last post, over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at the following ten steps in the life of a lesson:
- Event takes place – an experience, idea, incident or accident
- Analysis and capture – through interview, AAR, workshop, report-writing etc.
- Packaging – write-up of lesson
- Review for accuracy – editing and improvement by person who identified the lesson
- Validation – quality check, ownership assigned and upload into a management system
- Review for accountability – periodic checks on progress
- Implement recommendations – to avoid/ensure recurrence of bad/good alike
- Review for effectiveness – observe changes to ensure they have had desired effect
- Closure – lesson status updated but retained in system for reference and to aid analysis
- Assurance – as part of risk management, periodic review to ensure closed status remains justified
These are all important but the first of these – the event - is the point of conception, from which the lesson begins to grow!
Lessons can be drawn from any event (or series of events) because we can and do learn from every element of human experience. These events can be planned (e.g. projects, deployments, bids,, branch openings, product launches etc.) or unplanned (e.g. accidents, unforeseen opportunities, weather events etc.).
These events can be positive or negative. This is an important point because some people think that we ‘only learn from our mistakes’.
I used to think this too.
When things go well (i.e. when performance meets or exceeds our expectations), we should make an effort to learn to ensure that we repeat such performance in the future. Neglecting the positives and focussing on the negatives has two potential consequences:
- We leave things to chance, running the risk of NOT repeating the things that ensured success this time round;
- We come to view learning as a negative experience, making it unpopular and unlikely to lead to improved performance.
Of course, whilst the event is the immediate source of learning, it is almost certain that our efforts to learn from it will require inquiry and an analysis of those events that preceded it, as well as the context, the conditions and any concurrent activity. This is known as lessons capture and is the next step in the life of a lesson, to be discussed in the next blog post.