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5 tips for good “Lessons learned” meetings

Lessons learned are an important part of any person/team’s evolution, it’s how you assess what happened , and identify clear ways to become better.

This meeting is often underestimated, even skipped, which prevents people from learning more than they should.

Here are some tips for a better “Lessons learned” meeting:

1. Take notes throughout the meeting

While you manage your project, you will probably wished some events went differently. It could be how you made your schedule, how the team developed a particular module that went wrong, or anything else.

It’s important to note them as they happen so you do not forget them, and note any ideas you might have right away to make it better next time. Don’t worry if some elements do not have solutions associated with them, what’s important is to be able to go through those items with the team while you are doing your meeting so they can contribute.

2. Plan the meeting not later than 10 days after the project

The idea behind this tip is not to wait too much so the team can remember what happened enough to contribute.

What’s important about having a specific objective (10 days), is that it will prevent you from postponing the meeting or simply not doing it because “you don’t have time”.

3. Make it clear

I may sound like a broken record with the “clear” thing, but, that’s how you can make your projects better!

Here, what’s important is to find clear actionable tasks that must be done (or not done) to improve.

Let’s take a scenario where many users complained about errors on a website and you want to list how we can avoid this next time:
Bad way: Test more before deployment
Good way: Plan 2 testing rounds, one to find errors so you can fix them, a second time to make sure everything was fixed probably

See the difference? One can be planned, done, and then improved again. The other one is too vague, which will either be done incorrectly, or not done at all in the end.

4. Include everyone who participated

Use your judgement with this one, if you have a 40 people team, you want to avoid overcrowding your meeting.

You want to make sure you gather as much feedback from every role as possible, and avoid including just managers. So if you have a large team, you may want to plan more than one meeting or include key people who could gather some information from their colleagues before the meeting.

5. Associate solutions for everything

Sometimes, the team may not have solutions for every element right away, but you want to avoid the problem from recurring so you must find solutions for everything. If it’s impossible during the meeting, assign someone the task of doing a little research, and never leave anything without solutions.

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The power of error inside a team

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Source: jdurham

We learn from our mistakes, right? Error brings knowledge, and knowledge is valuable. Therefore, error is valuable!

Why are people so afraid of making mistakes?

  1. Afraid of what people will think;
  2. Do not want to face the consequences;
  3. Imagine the worst that can happen and want to prevent it;
  4. Do not want to disappoint;
  5. etc.

Ground rule

It’s important to value errors, especially inside a team, and it should be a ground rule right from the start. By doing so, teammates will feel better overall when they are working, and when they make a mistake, they will be able to concentrate on how to fix it, and prevent it in the future instead of focusing on what the team will think of them. The result is a team that works together instead of pointing fingers.

Make it clear

It’s important to clarify what’s expected of the team towards mistakes. For example, some errors may be caused by taking risks, taking those risks may be outside what’s tolerated amongst the team; we want to accept mistakes but we want to avoid people taking unnecessary risks. Here, the rule could be simply that before taking that risk, it must be discussed and if the team decides to take the risk, the mistake will be shared with the whole team.

Lessons learned

Those mistakes may be tiny, but may also have a large impact. The knowledge gained from that mistake becomes a lesson learned out of your project, and it’s important to communicate it to the whole team and other colleagues that may face the same problem, you may save them tons of time (and money!).

It’s important when discussing lessons learned that you focus on :

  1. why it happened
  2. what was done to fix it
  3. what must be done in the future to prevent it

Also, avoid pointing fingers at all cost, talking about it must make everyone feel like they learned something and not that they messed up (that’s the hard part).

A simple way of preventing accusations is always talking about what the team did and not what one person did in particular. For example, instead of ‘Joe used a new script that created a bug’, we could say ‘We used a new script that created a bug’. Simple!

Practice makes perfect

It may seem hard at first to look at an error as a good thing, even more to have the whole team thinking like that, but as each project is done and mistakes are made, if the focus is on the knowledge gained and the team are working together to fix errors, then people will be more and more comfortable and will work even better together.

In conclusion, accept mistakes

For many of you, it’s going to be hard, but work on it. Mistakes are alright, accept them, learn from them, and the knowledge you will gain will help you grow in all aspects of your life.┬áPeople will notice more how to get up after a fall than the fall itself!

Any stories to stare? Don’t hesitate!