Sunday, February 18, 2007

Week 23 (Building a PMO) - Lessons Learned?

Well, one of the major deliverables for one of our customers has arrived – we are going live on 3/1! As of this writing, it really looks like we will make it, and with quite a few reasons to be proud. We will be implementing a considerable part of what we planned, and in some cases, a little extra. Of course since we had no real success criteria, the idea of a successful implementation is not applicable. How can you succeed if you don’t know what success is? I’ll get to that another time… Today – lessons learned.

First, I am an advocate of learning lessons at all times during the project and recording them as they occur, something that I did with this one. My reasoning is that we tend to forget over time, so waiting until the end of the project may result in lost lessons. Also, after a project is completed, we all have a tendency to paint a slightly rosier than real picture of what happened. The aura of success (or even just getting the darn thing over with) can create a euphoria that makes things look - not so bad.

The reason I added the question mark to the title is reflective of my skepticism that we are actually learning here. I propose that a well-run project will have lessons learned that relate ONLY to the parts of the project that were new. The other parts, I expect we would have learned from already. Now, that is not to say that continuous improvement is not possible, but rather that the “lessons” from continuous improvement are a different order of magnitude than those from the newer parts of the project. That is – if you have been learning in the first place! I think we are learning a little, but not as well as we could. One of the jobs of a PMO is codify or ingrain these lessons into the culture and processes of the organization. This way we can collectively and consistently learn these lessons rather than learning them individually and unpredictably.

So here are some lessons learned form the most recent project in our current program – how many of these do you already know?

1. The people we had were great; there just weren’t enough of them.
2. We left management and planning unattended for too long.
3. Unclear roles and responsibilities led to confusion and loss of precious time.
4. We had the most success when we were all informed.
5. Once engaged and informed, management responded quickly and helpfully.
6. We did things right, wrong, and mostly late.
7. We were slowed by constant competition for resources.
8. A great customer relationship got us through many challenges
9. We often did not have the tools and skills needed to do the best job.
10. We did not have a clear understanding of the work when we estimated.

I am sure every one of you can relate to these lessons. These were not all the lessons, but these are the ones I think we already knew. Yet somehow we did not learn from them in the past. Why? I think I will break these down a little over the next few weeks and look at them – surely there is a reason, or reasons. Hmmmm.

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