This Guest paper, from which the following abstract has been drawn, was submitted for publication in November 2019, Part 1 published here February 2021.
It is copyright to Dr. Philip Crosby, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

Introduction | Study Approach and Methodology 
Balancing Enthusiasm with Realism | Checking for Relevant Lessons Learned
Embracing Complexity, Ambiguity and Uncertainty | Project Mission and Success Definition
Reporting and Decision-Making Policies and Structure | Project Information Control | PART 2

Checking for Relevant Lessons Learned

This is Attitudinal Project Shaping #2

The value of recording lessons-learned from past projects, and the investigation of experiences from like-projects during early stage high-tech project planning, seems obvious. But casework reveals little effort is applied to these valuable activities. Many of the facilities investigated for the present study almost totally relied on the collective experiences of project staff and management rather than any formal survey of analogous projects, thereby failing to learn of other's mistakes.[18]

Authors consistently promote the need to learn from project experience, and cite this as vital for continuous improvement as well as evidence of project management maturity. Several authors conclude that "only a few firms manage systematically to identify and transfer valuable knowledge from projects to following projects [so that people can] apply it to future tasks".[19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24], [25]

Smith & Winter directly link "front-end" management with project success.[26] They promote the idea of deliberately exploring insights and implications flowing from past project perspectives and crafting appropriate action responses. Formal lessons learned capture mechanisms are needed to avoid "project amnesia", including knowledge management systems. Schindler & Eppler suggest methods for learning from experience,[27] and cite the Industry that appears to be more adept at systems to capture and retrieve previous learnings from experience, and put it to great use in lowering costs in orbital satellite projects.[28]

Within organizations, project staff has opportunities to learn and reuse lessons,[29] and post-mortem results can be stored within knowledge systems, or communicated directly to other teams.[33] Mapping techniques that show chains of causality are useful in transferring lessons-learned to other projects.[31] For the high-tech planner in single project organizations, effort is required to access and locate such learnings.[32]

Schalken, Brinkkemper, & van Vliet, address this problem with a (highly qualified) method based on Grounded Theory to deal with qualitative information from project reviews.[33] An alternative is to access public databases such as NASA's Engineering Network,[34] and The Software Program Manager's Network.[35] Whatever method is used, lessons-learned and wisdom applied from analogous projects is concluded to be a vital, though largely underused, project success factor.

Balancing Enthusiasm with Realism  Balancing Enthusiasm with Realism

18. ALMA, 2010; ASTRON, 2010; CSIRO, 2009.
19. Cao, Q., & Hoffman, J, J. (2010). A case study approach for developing a project performance evaluation system. International Journal of Project Management, 29(2), 155-164.
20. Verner, J. M., & Cerpa, N. (2005). Australian software development: What software project management practices lead to success? Proceedings of the 2005 Australian Software Engineering Conference (ASWEC'05), Brisbane, Australia.
21. Cooke-Davies, T. 2002. The "real" success factors on projects. International Journal of Project Management, 20(3), 185-190.
22. Kerzner, H. (1998). In search of excellence in project management. USA: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
23. Williams, T. (2004). Identifying the hard lessons from projects — easily. International Journal of Project Management, 22, 273-279.
24. PMI. (2008). The standard for program management — second edition. Project Management Institute, USA.
25. Fisher, J, R. (2010). Large instrument development for radio astronomy: Astro2010 technology development white paper. Observatory Technical Council, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville.
26. Smith, C., & Winter, W. (2010). The craft of project shaping, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 3(1), 46-60.
27. Schindler, M., & Eppler, M. J. (2003). Harvesting project knowledge: a review of project learning methods and success factors. International Journal of Project Management, 21, 219-228.
28. e.g. TOPSAT, 2010.
29. Davies, A., & Hobday, M. (2005). The business of projects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
30. Collier, B., DeMarco, T., & Fearey, P. (1996). A defined process for project postmortem review. IEEE Software archive, 13(4), 65-72.
31. Williams, T. (2004). Identifying the hard lessons from projects — easily. International Journal of Project Management, 22, 273-279.
32. CSIRO, 2009.
33. Schalken, J., Brinkkemper, S., & van Vliet, H. (2006). A method to draw lessons from project postmortem databases. Software Process Improvement and Practice, 11, 35-46.
34. NASA. (2010b). NASA Engineering network. Retrieved September 3, 2010, from
35. SPMN. (2010). Software Program Manager's Network. Retrieved August 21, 2010, from
Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page