Monday, 28 April 2014

Life of a lesson #7: Implementing recommendations - actually, like, you know, DOING stuff?!

As part of a wider discussion about knowledge management (KM), we’ve recently been looking at the following ten steps in the life of a lesson:
  1. Event takes place – an experience, idea, incident or accident
  2. Analysis and capture – through interview, AAR, workshop, report-writing etc.
  3. Packaging – write-up of lessons
  4. Review for accuracy – editing and improvement by person who identified the lesson
  5. Validation – quality check, ownership assigned and upload into a management system
  6. Review for accountability – periodic checks on progress
  7. Implement recommendations – to avoid/ensure recurrence of bad/good alike
  8. Review for effectiveness – observe changes to ensure they have had desired effect
  9. Closure – lesson status updated but retained in system for reference and to aid analysis
  10. Assurance – as part of risk management, periodic review to ensure closed status remains justified
Last time we looked at the periodic reviews to which lessons should be subjected to ensure accountability for progress is maintained; we’ll now look at the implementation of the recommendations in each lesson.

Whilst the previous stage ensures accountability and makes things happen, this next stage involves those things actually happening.

Readers of this blog will recall that a lesson should answer the following questions:

  • What was expected or meant to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • How does what happened differ from what was expected?
  • What were the root causes or contributory factors?
  • What can we learn?  This learning comes in two forms:
    • What should we do next time round, when faced with this issue?
    • What changes should the host organisation make to prevent or ensure recurrence?
  • What impact did this issue have?  How much money/time did it cost or save us?
Therefore the lesson will contain analysis that explains why something happened, recommendations on how to prevent or ensure its recurrence and, crucially, the estimated impact associated with the issue from which the lesson was identified.  It is this impact that will help those responsible for the lesson’s management to closure prioritise their workload (i.e. a lesson with the potential to save lives or many millions of dollars warrants greater attention than one that can save a few thousand).

The recommendations in a lesson vary in detail:
  • From the specific - ‘The organisation should review, revise and include the attached template in its pre-deployment procedures before the next project/operation etc.’
  • To the more vague - ‘The organisation should conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the current equipment procurement strategy and be prepared to move towards hiring if the analysis shows this will be more cost-effective.’
The individual, team or department now responsible for a lesson should now:
  • Review the lesson and, if necessary, seek clarification from the person that raised it;
  • Establish the scope of the work required;
  • Identify stakeholders that can either help implement (or will be affected by) the recommendations and add them to the lesson;
  • Identify current or future work that can help, hinder or otherwise influence the recommendations;
  • Identify resources and make a plan….
Crucially, for each of these steps, comments should be added to the lesson in the form of an audit trail to provide any observer with an update on progress.  And when things change – whether they show progress or indicate a setback, the audit trail should be updated accordingly.

It is this audit trail (and external scrutiny thereof) that helps maintain accountability for lessons as it can be checked in the review meetings already discussed.  Furthermore, even when the recommendations have been implemented, the audit trail provides a potentially valuable reference for future colleagues faced with problems similar to those from which the lesson was identified.  In other words, whilst the solutions are what this form of lessons management seeks, the ‘workings-out’ used to produce such solutions also provide further learning opportunities for others and should therefore be written with this potential benefit in mind.

Once the lesson’s recommendations have been implemented (i.e. budgets changed, resources re-allocated, personnel hired/fired/re-trained and re-roled, equipment procured, processes amended), the lesson can be recommended for closure.  The point at which this happens is the next stage in the life of a lesson, to which we will turn next time.

For more information on
lessons, lessons management systems, knowledge management (KM) and organisational learning, please visit the Knoco website.


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