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History doesn't repeat itself

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Continuous iteration, Cultural values, Open, Technology

You do a project, make mistakes, find some solutions, and then forget about them. You might have a lessons learned workshop, write a report then file it away. It’s a depressing thought, and has too often been true of IT projects and initiatives.

This troubled a small group of us, so we came together to do something about it.

We wanted a way to make lessons accessible across PDS in an engaging way. We wanted to share good ideas and warn people about bad.

We were motivated by a need expressed by a project manager at the start of a project.

Where do I go to find lessons learned in my area of work?

Capturing lessons

We came up with a tool that allowed anyone to record a lesson in a succinct way and gave others the means to find it. One of the team came up with the concept of the 140 characters of a tweet to keep the lessons learned concise. We then created a Sharepoint tool to manage, capture and present the information.

We trust people to be professional and constructive and anyone can record a lesson. Staff record a lesson in 140 characters, make a recommendation, and select categories that it relates to. Lessons are often identified by people across Parliament. The tool lets staff record every team member involved, so that readers of the lesson know who to talk to.

If someone needs to give a fuller explanation of the lesson, there’s a "more information" section that can be used or you can attach a document. The form in the image below is all you need to fill in when adding a lesson. It’s that easy.

A screenshot from the Sharepoint site
A screenshot from the Sharepoint site

Sharing lessons

To make the tool more visual, we’ve put a bubble map at the top of the page, which builds dynamically when you open it. It highlights the themes that are most common.

Bubble map of most common categories
Bubble map of most common categories

Sharepoint lists give really good tools for finding specific lessons. You can filter by combinations of categories, by project/programme, or search for words or phrases. You can also show the most recent lessons that have been added.

We’ve used the “click to like” feature to let people like specific lessons, and then listed the most liked ones.

We’ve also added subsets of the lessons in other Sharepoint sites. All the “agile” category lessons are shown on our Agile Champions site for example.

The Programme Management Office have taken over the running of the site and they’ve been offering a small prize for the most liked lesson each month. They also help to promote the site to staff.

We’re also working with the House of Commons Enterprise Project Management Office as they're gathering lessons from across the House. They can feed lessons directly in to the tool and two other teams in the House are keen to use a version of the tool for their work.

What we’ve learned

  • the 140 character limit makes lessons more accessible and easy to read but does take some thought and editing
  • you need to keep promoting the culture of sharing and using lessons
  • keep it simple to use

How does your organisation share lessons? Let us know in the comments below. PDS staff can access the tool here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the tool, contact Alan Bedford.

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