This is a pretty funny video…that isn’t really all that funny if it feels a lot like your own organization. I’m referring to the “problem” with Lessons Learned as most organizations tend to approach things.
The BIG question to ask yourself, about your organization and what you do, is whether or not it is more about Lessons Learned or Lessons Captured.
It would seem that in many organizations it’s more about Lessons Captured that are then in some way stored within those silos of excellence. Lessons that were “paid” for by someone (often at great organizational cost) and identified as “something” that we perhaps should “learn” from. But that’s usually not quite what takes place.
Instead we have a rather aggressive campaign to capture lessons learned, and lots of efforts to then ensure that they are incorporated within some sort of a repository. And that’s where the problem kicks in – finding the lesson that needs to be learned. Or rather, the exact person or part of the organization that needs to find that lesson being able to actually find that lesson and in time to have any actual benefit.
It seems that in many organizations there is not a lot of thought put towards incorporating Lessons Learned within an overall Knowledge Management strategy. For that matter, more organizations than not don’t even take the time to develop a Knowledge Management strategy. Absent that what then happens is that the lessons learned effort becomes more of a “pull” effort and less of a “push” strategy.
With a “pull” effort the lessons learned sits benignly within the repository…waiting for someone to come along and find the lesson learned. Amongst the entire “pile” of lessons learned. Often with minimal taxonomy or meta keyword tagging association.
In similar situations a “pull” effort is utilized, for example, within marketing where it is applied to portions of the market where demand uncertainty is high. But this is a very difficult strategy to implement effectively as it tends to rely heavily upon a consumer “stumbling through the door” rather than taking proactive efforts to connect the product or service to the customer or to advance market based upon forecasted needs and requirements.
A “push” strategy is more about understanding long-term forecasts and meeting changing demands, and understanding where demand uncertainty is relatively small. A “push” strategy works well when an organization understands its customers and stakeholders, and has come to terms with recognizing the differences between the needs and the wants.
Which brings us back to organizational lessons learned. Let’s say that an employee does a fully exhaustive search of the repository this morning…and in doing so doesn’t find the lesson learned that might make all the difference…because that lesson learned isn’t yet in the repository. What then would cause that same employee to return to the repository this afternoon for another exhaustive search – meaning, after failing to find what they were hoping to find this morning, why waste time looking yet again this afternoon?
And that speaks directly to the need to move from a “pull” effort to a “push” strategy. What needs to happen is that there should be a proactive way for the organization to ensure that critical lessons learned are pushed to those in the organization with the greatest need based upon urgency and impact. The implication of this is of course that to make this effective, the organization must first actually have a Knowledge Management strategy. One that actually recognizes the value of and addresses the need to utilize the existing organizational knowledge. And it must address the strategic gaps within the organization, and use that analysis to determine what knowledge is needed where, when and why. And from that analysis those lessons which are most likely to have the greatest impact to those affected by the identified knowledge gaps then need to be pushed to where the knowledge is needed.
The concept is really not all that difficult. It should be one that is quite familiar to those working within the areas of competitive intelligence, for example. The problem is, I believe, one where lacking any organizational Knowledge Management strategy there is then also a lacking of any recognition of the differences between Lessons Captured and Lessons Learned. And there clearly is not effective knowledge management metrics in place (to measure the value-added contribution of organizational knowledge).
So, is your organization perfecting the capture of lessons, or has it developed a strategy to ensure that those lessons are actually learned?