Mark Addleson replied to the topic Lessons Learned In Government Projects – Collecting Dust? in the forum Program and Project Management 8 years, 7 months ago
The report makes very interesting reading. Here are some of my thoughts about the issues it raises.
1) Agencies which hope to instill a ‘lessons learned’ system across the board are on the wrong track. This might seem like a small point, but it’s an important one. “NASA as an agency” can’t and never will utilize a lessons learned system. Organizations can’t do anything. Organizations (NASA in this case) are abstract. People act and share knowledge (or not). So the question is, are they. We have to understand what it takes to share knowledge and encourage (discourage) the practices. Standard management practices, I explain my book Beyond Management, discourage people from sharing knowledge.
2) Sharing knowledge and ‘lessons learned’ is a ‘personal thing’. People readily share when they are interested in what others are doing. What they share, though, is what they know. The ‘knowing‘ associated with one’s practices is not easy to capture; it is highly contextual and largely tacit and interesting only others who are quite closely connected (e.g. friends, or people doing similar work).
3) We make the mistake of assuming that knowledge is something you can capture and move around. IT vendors encourage this belief. Knowledge (actually ‘knowing’) is ‘transferred’ mainly through ‘talk‘ (person to person), not ‘tools‘. When there is a culture – climate and context – where people with similar interests can talk, generally, they will. Is your organization ‘talk friendly’? Most that I know are not. They perpetuate the industrial-age belief that talk and work are separate and incompatible.
4) It is important that knowledge-workers share knowledge, though not ‘across the organization’; merely with others who have common interests. Sometimes we have to find who the others are (technology can help here), but this doesn’t start with capturing ‘lessons learned’; it starts with a culture where, when you find them, they are willing to talk.
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