Before we dive into the steps of writing a lessons learned report, let’s go through what lessons learned report itself is. A lessons learned report is one of the most important documents of a project. Every important event, challenge, constrain, risk, and uncertainty faced during the project are documented in a lessons learned report along with the healthy and timely solutions you came up with for them.
Now, why is it important to write a lessons learned report when the project can be completed without it? Well, it is important to write a lessons learned report to record the desired outcomes and solutions for all future projects. In this way, it helps in avoiding the same mistakes again. The lessons learned report from the previous projects can be viewed and analyzed before starting a new project to remember the mistakes that are not to be made.
Not only this, a lessons learned report is helpful throughout the same project as well. When you put in all the lessons learned at the end of every step/major task, it helps greatly in the next step. Therefore, it is important to write and review lessons learned report.
When you plan to write a lessons learned report for your project, an important thing to consider is that which will be the healthiest and best steps to write it. To ease that for you, we have developed some beneficial steps that can help you along the way. So the 12 easy steps for writing a lessons learned report are:
1. Take Help From Different Project Documents That Are Already Prepared
To make effective lessons, learned report, taking help from different project documents that are already prepared is very beneficial. Such reports provide a documented piece on all the ups and downs faced in the project.
It might be some cost calculation report; resources report, project progress report or an analysis report. As these reports contain all the important data regarding the project, there must be important findings and solutions to the potential risks that you can include in the lessons learned report.
Thus, reading all the important project documents and utilizing them in the best possible way is a key step to draw a lessons learned report.
2. Assess The Goals And Objectives
Whenever you come across something that you think is important to include in a lessons learned report, wait a minute. Before doing that, assess the goals and objectives of the project as well as of the lessons learned report to make sure they are healthy for the overall project framework.
If there is a lesson that is important but is not relevant to the core goals and objectives of the project, you must not include it in a lessons learned report. In order to ensure whether any learned lesson is feasible to be a part of the report, check:
- The goals and objectives of the project are relevant to it?
- Has the lesson made any difference to the outcomes of your project?
- Will it be helpful for the future projects of the same nature?
- What do you aim to achieve with this specific lesson?
When you have positive answers to this kind of questions, you have well assessed the goals and objectives. You can then include those lessons learned in the report.
3. Be Clear On The Report’s Audience And Purpose
Now, the next step is to find your audience. At times, you are not clear of the audience you are targeting with the lessons learned report. Sometimes a lessons learned report is for the team while, at other times, it is for the stakeholders. Most of the times, it is entirely for the project manager himself.
Some important audience of a lessons learned report are:
- The project team and field staff: The lessons learned report includes challenges during meetings, training workshops, communication tools, data collection tools, and everything related to the project team and field staff.
- Stakeholders: Lessons learned report for stakeholder includes the approaches and methodologies that worked best in engagement and interaction with the stakeholders.
This helps in not only determining the audience of the report but also clears the main purpose of the report by targeting a specific audience.
4. Make Sure You Know What Is Going Right In The Project
It is a healthy step to stay aware of all the positive outcomes and beneficial results of the project. It helps in boosting the morale of the team and keep them motivated. When you are aware of what is going right in the project, you are open towards all the potential risks or uncertainties that can come in the way.
As you are confident of the measures you took before, you can implement them again in case any problem appears. So, ensuring that you know all the positive aspects and right dimensions of the project helps you stay on track in time.
5. Make Sure You Know What Is Going Wrong In The Project
When you know what is going right in the project, it is equally important to know what is going wrong in the project. When you are aware that the project is not going in the right or decided dimension, you can work on it.
How can you know if something is going wrong in the project? The answer is simple. Check your project activities with the project schedule and management plan. You can check whether the results and outcomes are positive or not. Also, if there are any delays in the project deliverables, something is causing it a hindrance and identifying that cause lest you know what is going wrong in the project.
So make sure you know what is going wrong in the project so you can deduce the solution and then include them in the lessons learned report.
6. Compare Costs And Results Of Different Activities
A lessons learned report is about the ups and downs faced during project activities. As each project activity has a specific cost (which in many cases can be the project resources), it has the desired result according to that. Therefore, you need to compare the costs and results of different activities to ensure if they are aligned.
This step helps in coming up with advantageous material to include in the lessons learned report.
7. Come Up With All The Improvements And Solutions
Once you identify the risks and uncertainties in the project, you along with your team, will be working on the improvements and solutions. Finally, you come up with all the improvements and solutions that lead the project in the right direction.
Now that is what a lessons learned report is all about — coming up with the improvements and solutions for the encountered or potential problems of the project. These improvements and solutions need to be included in the lessons learned report to utilize them at later stages, or in the future relevant projects.
8. Do a Comprehensive Analysis Of The Lessons Learned
It is not important to include full-fledged problem along with its solution in the lessons learned report. It is better to do a comprehensive analysis of the lessons learned. This ensures that only the important aspects of the lessons are included in the report. These help in coming up with the on point and timely solutions for the problems that are faced in future projects.
Furthermore, it saves the readers from wasting time on the extra details that render no use later on. Also, it makes the report comprehensive and readable. Thus, it serves the exact purpose of a lessons learned report.
9. Structure The Report In a Good Format
When you have come up with all the problems, risks, and challenges along with their improvements and solutions, you are ready to inculcate them in a document that would be called a lessons learned report. Before that, deciding the format of the report is an important step so you can structure the report in the most readable and convenient manner.
A good format helps with the comprehensive as well as organized reporting. A good format and structure have the following important elements:
- Summary: An executive summary of the lessons learned report is written by the end of the report but included in the beginning. It is the most important section of the lessons learned report. It gives a brief account of the audience and purpose of the report so the reader might know if he needs to continue reading the report.
- Introduction: An introduction is a comprehensive part that provides context and outline of the report.
- Findings and discussions: This is the detailed part that includes all the learned lessons along with their outcomes, analysis, and future significance. Make sure it’s to-the-point, and no irrelevant material is included.
- Conclusion and recommendation: This is the last part of the report that binds all the elements included in the report in a concise and clear way. The recommendations include the next steps that can be taken for further improvements.
When your lessons learned report is structured in this format, you are done with the most important step of writing a lessons learned report.
10. Draw Summaries Or Full-Fledged Report As Per The Project’s Need
Now, you might not need a full-fledged report for a small scale project. For such kind of projects, it is convenient and better to draw just the summaries of the learned lessons. Those can be done combined to produce a report. Make sure you consider the project needs, so you do not end up wasting time in something that is not required.
11. Make Sure The Report Is Readable
Another significant step is to ensure that the project is readable. If the project is not readable, the reader might not be able to deduce the positive results from the report. This renders your efforts zero. Therefore, you need to make sure that the report is accessible and convenient to read. In this way, a reader enjoys as he reads through the report because he is gaining a lot out of it.
To make a report readable, it is advised to use good formatting, some visuals and graphics, and breaking up long sections into smaller ones.
12. Re-Read And Edit The Report If Needed
Last but not least, a lessons learned report is like any other report which is drafted before compiling. So once you have drafted your report, re-read it to make sure there are no human errors. If there are any, you must go towards the editing part.
Re-reading and editing is a healthy step to take. It makes sure that your lessons learned report is serving the right purpose, has a clear audience, and is not a piece of waste.
A good and positive lessons learned report shows that you and your team are sincere to your roles and responsibilities. Therefore, above-mentioned are the 13 instrumental and valuable steps that you can take to write a lessons learned report. These steps ensure that you do not just produce a lessons learned report as the part of the project that needs to be done but, a part of the project that serves you and your team greatly in the future as well.
Click here to download Lessons Learned Report Template.
Click here to download Lessons Learned Report Template.