There’s always something to learn from every project — whether the project was a success or failure. However, unless you document the lessons learned, it can be difficult for your project team to know what they did right or the areas where they need to improve.
This article will show you how to write a lessons learned report. Let’s start with understanding what a lessons learned report means and the benefits it offers.
What is a lessons learned report?
A lessons learned report is a project document that contains all the knowledge and experience gained throughout a project's lifecycle. You can conduct lessons learned sessions at different time frames — either during or after a project.
This report aims to help project managers and their team members identify the root causes of problems on their past projects and learn how to avoid these problems on future projects.
What else do you stand to gain from creating a lessons learned report?
Five benefits of a lessons learned report
Here are five benefits creating a lessons learned report in project management offers you, your team members, and ultimately your organization:
1. Identifying inefficiencies
Imagine if you had to fill up a bucket with water, but you were unaware that the bucket was leaking. Not only would it take up a chunk of your time and effort, but it would be impossible to complete the task of filling up the bucket without fixing the leak.
Similarly, some problems come up when handling a project that makes it more challenging to complete. Without identifying these problems or inefficiencies, you’d be unable to complete your projects.
A lessons learned report records all the inefficiencies identified throughout a project and helps you avoid them during new projects.
2. Demonstrating growth to stakeholders
Like Steve Jobs said, “you can only connect the dots while looking backward.” Therefore, it’s only when you have reports of past projects that you can tell whether you’re making progress or not.
With a lessons learned report, you can track your current project progress and compare it to past projects to demonstrate growth and results to your stakeholders. In addition, you can also identify areas that need improvements.
3. Improving communication
Teamwork makes the dream work. However, without effective communication, your team will be like an airplane that’s lost contact with its air control traffic tower.
Lessons learned reports provide an avenue to get every team member invested from the project initiation to its completion.
4. Streamlining project workflow
Why have a 10-step process when you could use a 5-step process to complete the same project efficiently? A proper lessons learned report helps you identify the best strategies for a project and helps you streamline your project workflow to follow those processes.
5. Bettering future decision-making processes
You can only make better decisions concerning future projects when you identify and avoid mistakes made in past projects. And to do this, you need to record key lessons learned over a project’s life cycle.
Step by step process for writing a lessons learned report
Now that you know what a lessons learned report is and its importance, how do you accurately capture a project’s information? Here’s a 6-step process you can use in line with the Project Management Institute (PMI) method.
Check previous lessons learned documents
Just as a building needs a strong foundation, so does your lessons learned report. This first step is required to build a strong foundation for your report.
Start by examining previous lessons learned documents from projects similar to the one you’re currently about to handle. From these reports, you’ll get a sense of what could go wrong and what you could do right to make the project successful.
Determine project success metrics
At this stage, you determine what you need for a project to be successful (or your project success metrics).
You’ll need to identify the product’s audience and individuals who make up project teams. You’ll also need to decide the report’s style, length, data collection methods — whether surveys, workshops, questionnaires — and everything else in between.
Next, you need to be clear on the target of the lessons learned report. You could create the report for yourself, your team, or stakeholders.
If you’re creating the report for yourself or other project teams, it’s essential to include challenges faced and the data collection and communication tools used during the project.
For stakeholders, you should include an executive summary of all the methodologies that worked during the project.
Collect feedback from the team
After determining your project’s success metrics, it’s time to collect feedback from your team.
Your method might differ from team to team, but all project team members must have their input documented in the report.
Ensure to collect both negative and positive feedback from your team. Collecting positive feedback will motivate your team members and make them more confident when tackling other projects. Negative feedback is beneficial, too, as it helps you identify what is causing hindrances to project deliverables.
Once you’ve identified these hindrances, you’ll be able to make improvements for future projects.
Analyze project success & results
Gold undergoes a thorough refining process before becoming an extremely valuable material. Similarly, for your report to be useful, you need to analyze the documented lessons learned and identify any recommendations beneficial for future projects.
Your findings can be helpful for other members of your organization too.
Document comments and findings
You must treat your lessons learned report as a valuable item you wouldn’t want to keep lying around, lest it gets lost or tampered with. So, document all your comments and findings into what will be known as the lessons learned report.
The report should be broken into sections like the summary, introduction, findings, and conclusion.
Store the lessons in a digital format, like on a drive or cloud storage, to ensure they are safe and still accessible to others who might need them.
Make the completed lessons learned report easy to retrieve or access. One way to do this is by using specific keywords when storing the reports on a drive or in cloud storage.
Get started with this lessons learned report template.
After you copy this template, you can start utilizing this free lessons learned report template for your projects and business.
Capture lessons learned using Coda's template
Step 1: Adding a New Project & Creating Goals
Starting with the
page, you can add a new project that your team is taking on by clicking the
button. In the
table you can add details for your project like
of the project will be calculated based on the timeline of your project.
Next you can set project goals by clicking the
button. In the
table, you can add goals that you may want to achieve for each of those projects. In this table you can add details like the
Date to be
, and mark whether it was
. This will allow you to keep track of overall progress of the project.
Step 2: Lessons Learned from Projects
In the next step, you can add lessons learned from each project. In the
page, there is a form where you can fill out what was a positive and negative outcome of each lesson and its associated project. This will allow your team to implement mistake that your team may have made from each project.
Examples of lessons learned reports
Here are some lessons learned reports you can draw inspiration from.
Enabling Social Prescribing:
Gusto's GusTools Playbook, Post Mortem Write up:
Lessons learned report FAQs
What is the purpose of lessons learned?
The primary purpose of a lessons learned report is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a project to improve future projects.
What are some examples of lessons learned reports?
Here are some examples of lessons learned during projects:
Project schedule: Set realistic deadlines and schedules.
Need for support: Assign tasks to individuals most qualified to tackle them.
Lack of training: Provide project members with the necessary education to carry out assignments successfully.
Poor communication: Consider hiring a facilitator to help with the sessions.
What should be included in lessons learned documentation?
Your lessons learned documentation should include an executive summary, introduction, findings, conclusion, and recommendation.
What are the benefits of recording lessons learned?
When you record or capture project lessons learned, you’d be able to identify inefficiencies, demonstrate growth to stakeholders, improve communication within teams, streamline project workflows, hit your project goals, and make better decisions about future projects.
to plan your team’s projects