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Improving the lessons learnt process

Even mature organisations can improve reflective practices in their projects, Denise O’Sullivan discovers in examining the lessons learnt process in an aircraft management company’s software development and organisational change project.

The company and the supplier entered into an agreement to develop a brand new system for the company’s core business of managing the departure of passenger aircraft. As part of the project, lessons learnt sessions were scheduled for the business, supplier and implementation teams and individuals were asked to reflect on the issues that occurred and the mitigation actions that could be taken.

The lessons learnt sessions were very robust and not surprisingly emotional but every piece of feedback was documented, an action plan agreed and distributed to all the impacted and interested parties. This plan was updated weekly and distributed so that the impacted areas could see that their issues were being taken seriously and being worked on, demonstrating the power of transitioning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge and the value of the outcome of such an exercise.

While the project organisation was reasonably mature in the change management and implementation streams it was clear reflection could be embedded in a more structured fashion. There is always room for improvement when teams are working together in this more virtual and complex world.

Although the project was successful, O’Sullivan identifies three areas where more focus may have saved the company money and eased stress on the project team: employee understanding of the change, developer understanding of the user experience and more detailed planning of the support required during the implementation.

‘Project Performance Improvement’ [PDF], a whitepaper by Denise O’Sullivan, discusses the benefit of using reflection and improvement techniques in a software development and organisational change project.

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