How do I run a Lessons Learned Meeting?

Running a Project Lessons Learned Meeting is not simple - there are sensitivities and nuances to manage.

Summary

  1. Invite a good cross-section of participants from “The Project”
  2. Get a room. A nice room.
  3. Have your agenda ready and visible.
  4. Set the ground rules.
  5. Invite “Insights” from the participants. Every insight is valid.
  6. Group the insights by Theme.
  7. Work together on the “Lessons Learned“, and Agree Actions.
  8. Say THANKS!

By . Published: 2012/11/17 9:30:02 PM, Last Updated: 2016/05/09 6:56:29 PM

More detail

A project “Lessons Learned Meeting” (aka Project Retrospective) is generally used when a project has had serious issues or has not delivered at all. So – you are probably going to have to deal with some sensitivities. This guide aims to help you through the process, and give some helpful tips. NB it does help if you are a good mediator and negotiator :)

1 – Get the right participants for your Lessons Learned Meeting

  • Ensure a spread of participants from across the project
  • Be sure not to leave any “group” or department out of it
  • Don’t be afraid of getting the more pushy/extroverted characters involved
  • If people are worried, assure them that it is a positive approach you are using: Focussing on Lessons Learned!

2 – Get them all in a room – a nice room

  • Avoid letting people “dial-in” if you can – some people try and hide from these meetings – assure them that it will be a positive
  • Ensure the room has space, good light, and is not stuffy
  • Get a good set of flipcharts, some good markers
  • Get Tea, Coffee and snacks if you can – it will put people at ease
  • There you go – you have a good foundation, now get them all in and let the Lessons Learned Meeting begin!!

3 – Set out Lessons Learned Agenda

  • Keep it structured and focused
  • Set out the time constraint for each item

4 – Set the Ground Rules

  • Include Norm Kerth’s “Prime Directive for Retrospectives” – Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could…
  • Ask people to allow one person to talk at a time – you can use a “coffee mug” or something else to indicate who may talk
  • Phones off
  • Don’t do email
  • …and any others rules you may want to use to keep the session on track


The “Mad, Sad, Glad” approach to encouraging insights is very useful, and can help lighten the tone of a project review session.

5 – Now,.. Invite your participants to give their “Insights”: Mad, Sad, Glad

  • This is where to elicit the feedback from everyone about how the project went – what happened
  • Use a device like “Mad, Sad, Glad” to help people categorise the items they want to report
  • The important thing is that this is not a time to accuse or defend, or to explain oneself!
  • The facilitator should ensure each point is heard, and is recorded
  • No blaming allowed
  • No interruption please!
  • Everyone just submits their “insights” and these are recorded
  • And the facilitator should ensure the positives and successes are teased out and recorded – the “Glad”s!

6 – Theme the Lessons Learned Insights

  • Organise and group the “Insights” into 3 or 4 themes
  • The participants should contribute to defining the “Themes”
  • If you are using “Mad, Sad, Glad” then use the same theme on each of the 3 areas
  • Do this quite quickly – do not obsess

7 – Check over the “Insights” to ensure you haven’t missed any…

  • Using these questions, check you haven’t missed anything
    1. What did we do well, that if we don’t discuss we might forget?
    2. What did we learn?
    3. What should we do differently next time?
    4. What still puzzles us?

8 – Set out your Lessons Learned

  • Work out from each theme
    • what should be avoided
    • what should be done differently next time
    • what should be done the same

9 – Set out the Actions required, and say THANKS!

  • If there are any actions from the session – like further conversations – then record them, with an owner
  • Keep Actions to a minimum – everyone has a day job, and larger actions are more likely to be delayed
  • Thank everyone, and send them on their way

10 – Write it up, put it on the Intranet, and send it around

  • Be sure to write the session up – Lessons Learned, Actions, general points
  • Be sure to emphasise the positive elements
  • Clearly mark out the “Lessons Learned” and the “Actions”
  • Send around the write-up to all participants and stakeholders
  • Save it also to the intranet or version control – it’s amazing how many of these reviews go missing because they only lived in email trails

Short on time?

try one of these templates:


Related Questions

See all Questions

Answer Count: 1 When was the question asked? 2012/11/17 9:30:02 PM By .