Why Are Lessons Learned Important For Your Business?
I'm sure you can think of many times at work where you or one of your employees have made a mistake that was detrimental to the business. Or where you have identified a way of doing something better, by learning from a mistake or learning from advice provided by another department, team or person.
Are you going to let these mistakes, lessons just slide? Or would you like to learn from them so that they don't happen again in the future or allow you to do things smarter and better.
Take a look at this video blog where Chris Docherty of FQM Ltd is chatting with the Mango Global team of Peter Rogers and Craig Thornton, while in San Diego at the 2020 Mango Software Global Conference.....
What does 'lessons learned' mean?
"Lessons learned is a methodology of businesses collecting data and information to a system that drive improvements in an organisation.
Typically, organisations do this by recording information from various sources into one spreadsheet and trying to use that data to drive improvements".
Is the spreadsheet system flawed?
Craig has loads of experience in auditing companies so we wanted to get an insight into whether recording the lessons learned in a spreadsheet is a flawed system.
"Craig, during your auditing years, did you see people using data from the spreadsheets to produce graphs and look for trends, or were they mostly adding the data to the spreadsheet but not doing anything with it?"
"Typically, people just put it on a spreadsheet and more than likely, they'll just forget about it. The spreadsheet sits around, the auditor turns up, and they say, 'oh, here's some lessons learned'. But nothing's actually done with that.
This is the case for New Zealand, but Chris, does this also happen in the UK?"
"Yeah, very typical, and we even have coined the phrase ‘lesson recording’. Because if you record that information and do nothing with it, you're not actually learning any lessons.
It's easy to collect lots and lots of data, it's easy to run trends. But if you do nothing with it, then it's a waste of time and wasted effort".
Why do people not do anything with the data?
We have established that a lot of people don't do anything with the data they record, but why is this? Are they just not trained in the techniques? Do they not understand the importance of doing this? Or do they not feel confident to raise the issue?
"I don't think there's one size fits all. Some organisations do undertake it well, but I think in general, people are too busy doing their day job...
A project finishes, they have a lessons learned, they record the information about the lesson, and they move on to the next project.
What they should be doing, is looking at the lessons learned register to see if there is anything they can take into the new project that could improve it, or make it more successful".
Should you put a dollar value on lessons learned?
We wanted to find out whether adding a value ($, £) to the lesson learned would be more effective in people actually doing something with the data.
Quite often, money will be a key driver within businesses. For example, accountants like numbers. If you can demonstrate to them that one particular lesson learned may bring a return on investment of £5000 a year, It's going to get more traction and support.
They may think 'that's just a small number' but if you can show them that this actually happened 5 times within the last year and show the dollar value attributed to it - it suddenly becomes more important.
"When it comes to recording the value of a lessons learned, an error or an improvement, I feel that the understanding of the cost of error is not often known. There is an opportunity to make greater awareness.
Using a value, absolutely does give you the opportunity to present the effects to the leadership team, or to financial people. That can then be used as a driver to improve things in an organisation".
Importance of Management Support
Like many workplace tasks, getting that top management support for the compliance person will enable them to make meaningful decisions that will benefit the rest of the company. Let's hear what Chris thinks about this...
"I would actually go further than that and say that it's not just support for the compliance person, because the methodology can be used in anything. Any opportunity where you are undertaking a project or implementing something new.
If we understand the cost of that error, and how we can put it right, I think it can be used across the board. But it does need the support from a leadership team to drive that, rather than just thinking about operations or production and the next project".
Keep recording the information but actually do something with it
Present information to the senior management team with a dollar-value on it
Ensure you have top management support for anyone suggesting improvements
You may be interested in our blog on the cost of poor quality, it lends itself well if understood in conjunction with this blog. Access it here