We learn so much from challenging projects. As thinking beings, we take those lessons and apply them to the next project, as well as (hopefully) to other areas of our lives. How do we share what we’ve learned so that the information and experience is available when and where it’s needed?

Elizabeth over at A Girl’s Guide to Managing Projects gets us thinking about how important it is for lessons learned to be saved, remembered and transferred across department boundaries. She mused about a product that might do this, and improve project success rates.

My response: Is it a product? or a culture? or a combination of both…?

Making Wisdom-sharing Something We Do

Sharing knowledge and experience across project boundaries requires both the time and space to process those lessons. In most parts of the world that use the term “project management”, those resources are harder to come by.

It takes a disciplined and determined individual to carve out the time for themselves and for the team, and to create real value in a “post mortem” or “post-implementation review” (not to mention while the project is ongoing). We can hold the meetings, but what good is it if we just file our findings somewhere on the network?

Elizabeth posted once about a “Meeting room C” (quoting her twice!) — a cafe outside the office. While it’s important to keep in mind that public places require discretion, the bottom line is that this sort of atmosphere allows us to relax and bounce ideas and impressions off colleagues, and across departments. In settings like that, formal “lessons learned” have a chance to become internalized, to become wisdom, and to give rise to positive professional relationships. Those relationships become vast and pertinent assets that cannot be matched by anything written.

Whether or not it’s a cafe, the secret is simply getting out of the familiar office environment. Another ingredient is temporarily suspending the rush, allowing people to take the time they need to mull ideas and respond to them frankly. Of course, this also requires a little freedom from office politics, and a whole lot of trust— a topic worthy of its own post (or five, or six, or more).

What about Parisha in Porbandar? or Fran out in Fairbanks?

This hasn’t occurred to me before, which is funny, since I’ve been a long-distance player many times.

If off-site and long-distance team members can make it to an occasional meeting, that is ideal. If they can’t, it’s still important to involve them in wisdom-sharing.

There are many ways people learn. Beyond simply absorbing information, we can bring learning to life by taking the time to engage each other. Video conferencing is becoming more and more accessible, and instant messaging isn’t too shabby either. Sure, IM is missing the face-to-face ingredient, but there is lots of space in it for play and spontaneity.

Once again, it’s about reaching out, having a conversation, giving any and all team members the space to ponder, ask “stupid” questions, vent, brainstorm, and more.

Speaking of play, here’s that product you may be looking for:

Post-mortem: The Online Game

This little nugget is to be continued, but in the meantime here’s a dictionary.com definition for you to ponder:

wis·dom [wiz-duhm] –noun

1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.
2. scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools.
3. wise sayings or teachings; precepts.
4. a wise act or saying.
5. (initial capital letter) Douay Bible. Wisdom of Solomon.

American Psychological Association (APA):
wisdom. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved July 23, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wisdom

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):
wisdom. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wisdom (accessed: July 23, 2007).

Modern Language Association (MLA):
“wisdom.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 23 Jul. 2007. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wisdom>.

The original article (and associated comments) that sparked this post can be found here.


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