Managing Global Issues: Lessons Learned

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Project managers must recognize that knowledge sharing is not completed when the project team members complete their tasks on projects. According to Crosman , management must support the lessons learned process with a demand that everyone in the organization follow lessons learned processes.

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However, a few organizations do not promote learning through project lessons. Some organizations choose to complete lessons learned at the post-project review. Post-project reviews capture process knowledge Von Zedwitz, for the project, which will be useful for future projects. Capturing lessons learned at the post-project review is better than not doing them at all.

In the best scenario, lessons should be captured throughout the project lifecycle and not just at the completion of the project. They need to create a learning environment for capturing, analyzing, storing, disseminating, and reusing lessons learned from projects. For this to happen, learning environments should establish a climate of trust where it is safe to make mistakes and it is the norm to share knowledge Reich, In order to remain competitive, many organizations execute several projects concurrently while trying to improve processes simultaneously.

One way to achieve continuous improvement is by learning from the past projects Newell, Newell found that social networks work better than a lessons-learned database.

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However, the problem with social networks is that the knowledge shared in social networks remains with people in the form of tacit knowledge. The lessons-learned process is an approach that is aimed to convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge so that the knowledge can remain accessible for reference and use when required. Likewise, researchers have different ideas for conducting lessons learned processes.

Organizations must understand, however, that in establishing lessons learned, that there are fundamental requirements for achieving success and effectiveness Hubbard, , requirements which must be applied on all projects. These requirements include the processes of capturing, analyzing, storing, disseminating, and re-using of lessons learned. As a first step, organizations must define the lessons the type and the content they need to capture and then identify the specific knowledge areas that relate to their efforts for improving project management practices and processes.

Pritchard suggests that the most important lessons to be learned are the ones that are relevant and timely. Secondly, project managers must determine the method of capturing lessons learned. Hubbard found that four out of five organizations used meetings to capture lessons learned.


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Other two popular methods were interviews and audits. Terrell , arguing that most project lessons learned are completed as an after thought at the end of the project, suggests that lessons learned should be completed through out the duration of the project life cycle and should not be just related to a specific type of issue alone, such as one involving technical knowledge.

It is important to capture both successes and failures on projects Future projects can benefit by following the lessons learned that were successful and avoiding the failed lessons. The project team members often do not have a problem with talking about project successes. But they do often downplay negative feedback because people tend to take the failed experience personally and relate to it with emotional pain Parnell et al.

Innovative organizations encourage people to be creative. To encourage this, senior management should ensure that people are not prevented from advancing in their careers because of previous failures and mistakes. When working in such organizations, project team members must know that their managers will tolerate errors and they expect the personnel to convey to others information that may enable future success Parnell et al.

Primarily, explicit knowledge has been captured on previous projects. Whereas, tacit knowledge refers to the know-how and know-why questions. Tacit knowledge is harder to obtain because it is not intuitive and it is difficult to express. Williams suggested that the tacit lessons on projects, often overlooked, are valuable lessons and recommended the use of mapping techniques to help the project team get to the root cause of problems. In their study, Eskerod and Skriver found that the task of organizing the lessons learned by project could hinder knowledge sharing and transfer, primarily because of the silos created by those individuals who do not like to share their explicit and tacit knowledge.

Similar to these findings, King and Marks found that it is difficult to measure an individual's willingness to share their knowledge resources. Project managers must be sensitive to these issues when attempting to capture lessons learned. However, if all participants were to acquire new knowledge simply by participating in the lessons learned process; this could act as an incentive.

Koners and Goffin found—in the projects they studied—that learning was not transferred from project to project; they suggested that post-project reviews be designed to stimulate learning. Also, it is important to capture lessons learned on all projects, even the small and uncomplicated Crosman Retaining and analyzing lessons learned can reduce the risk of making the same mistakes over and over again.

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Cooper et al. After lessons are captured, it is important to analyze—so as to ensure that they captured—the relevant information Pritchard, For lessons associated with complex problems, Williams suggested using mapping techniques showing the chains of causality. Busby recommended six other approaches to analyze lessons learned: utilizing cause-effect diagrams, paying close attention to history, examining the bigger picture outside the confines of the project, reducing categorization as a diagnosis, planning remedies, and inviting outsiders. Often, project lessons are collected in an ad-hoc fashion in the form of documentation, presentations, word-of-mouth, narratives, diaries, and databases Pritchard These are then analyzed for relevance and stored in a way that is easily accessible to everyone.

Devising such a storage system can be time consuming and cumbersome. Crosman recommends that organizations use a simple system with an interface that is intuitive, easy-to-use, and Web-based.


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  5. Crosman also recommends that the system function as part of the project management storage system, ensuring that it is a valueadded tool prior to making it available to project managers and enforcing their compliance. Cross project information is hard to obtain during a large project, especially when the team is battling their way through the project's day-to-day activities. Furthermore, organizations are expanding, often to the point of establishing a global presence.

    taking it to the next level

    Regardless of an organization's size, its personnel need a knowledge storage system so as to retain the lessons they learn on all projects. This is because the process of quickly finding a relevant lesson learned is one of the key reasons for building a lessons-learned system. By using a system based on searchable keywords—also known as triggers Crosman, , organizations can find relevant lessons quickly.

    One important concern in operating such a system is that its access and retrieval processes are easy-to-use and easily understood Crosman, Capturing lessons learned has been mostly done at the end of projects, during the post-project review session. Studies have shown that project team members who work on multiple projects may not be available for the session. In such cases, organizations can use a project risk register as a useful resource for documenting risks and lessons learned. As Kerzner b believed, every risk has a potential of turning into a problem. And in the event that a risk escalates into a problem, the organization must analyze the risk.

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    Most organizations face the problem of accessing information that has been captured, analyzed, and stored. Kerzner b recommended that organizations store knowledge-based information—such as lessons learned and case studies—on an Intranet so as to allow easy access and enable knowledge sharing. However, this method of archiving knowledge varies because of the dynamics shaping an organization's culture and its practices. Several studies have shown that organizations accord importance to retaining project knowledge. They may retain project knowledge on an existing project but not share this knowledge with other areas within the organization.

    As mentioned earlier, several studies suggest that lessons learned are not often used, and that in many cases, these are not used at all. In a study of project managers, Besner and Hobbs found that lesson learned issues were often referenced in relation to identifying a need to improve project performance; this study found that lessons learned are often captured and never used again. Likewise, Blyth fount that the individuals working on petrochemical, defense, transportation, and nuclear projects—projects located in 40 countries—focused only on those lessons learned that related to cost management; the author also found that after the lessons learned were created, this knowledge was filed away and never shared, accessed, or disseminated.

    Organizations must promote lessons learned in order for project managers to benefit and learn from other projects. Pritchard believes that retrieval of lessons learned should be tied into performance evaluations. Project managers are responsible for meeting schedule and budget expectations for their projects. Project managers should also be held accountable for any schedule and budget overruns that have occurred because the project manager failed to learn Pritchard, from peers and from past projects. Policies and procedures that are audited and enforced need to be part of an organization's learning culture and driven from top-down Kerzner, b.

    Project managers should be given a sufficient amount of time to search through a lessons learned system during the planning phase.

    the value of lessons learned

    Pritchard believed that when organizations provide rewards for using lessons learned, project managers will more likely document all of their lessons learned and ensure that they will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Project managers need to realize the value in lessons learned. Moreover, retaining knowledge from lessons is imperative for continuous improvement. Lessons need to be captured and shared throughout the company.

    Additionally, management needs to support and enforce the use of lessons within the learning environment.