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Knowledge management and the lessons learnt baton

Adeline Teoh ed.
August 13, 2012

The London Olympics came to a close this weekend and the city is ready to segue into the 2012 Paralympics. Given the controversies and triumphs of these Games, what kind of lessons learnt will Rio de Janeiro take on board for 2016?

I once edited a small business magazine that specialised in providing articles about and for Australian exporters. One month, probably around the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, I ran a cover story on sport and how Australian businesses were punching above their weight (excuse the pun) on the world stage. One area of expertise we excelled in was event management, a legacy of the very successful 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Since that year, Australian knowledge and experience has supported every Olympic Games, including the Winter Games, any city has hosted. (We were only involved in the good bits, mind, the catastrophes were some other country’s responsibility…) This remarkable fact, almost as remarkable as the discovery that we have also exported cleaners to Olympic events, got me thinking about knowledge management.

I believe knowledge management is the most important part of a project’s endgame. It is not enough to successfully hand the project over to business-as-usual operations; lessons from the project must be used for the betterment of future projects. In mature organisations, a project management office or centre of excellence might perform this function. In smaller and less mature organisations, the knowledge tends to reside in the project manager and team members who worked on the project.

As you can imagine, once the project is over the last thing a project manager wants to do is relive the experience by documenting it. The first thing he or she wants is a holiday, which any reasonable organisation would grant to prevent burnout and to keep its talent effective. This is endangers the collection of knowledge, however, as what the fresh-from-holiday team remembers of the project has probably gone the way of that first banana daiquiri.

What should organisations do to find a midway point between giving the project team due time off but also capturing lessons learnt and best practice? Is it a matter of documenting these aspects incrementally, for example after each milestone? Or should there be a specific role created, knowledge manager? What do you do?

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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