Learn from it, then leave it.

Last week is behind you. Are you working on your status report? Good. Now is a good time to pause and reflect, what lessons did you learn?

Depending on the template you use for your project status, you are probably answering questions like:

What happened as planned?   What did not go as planned?   Why or why not?

The real learning comes from that last question. Why did things go as planned? This represents the actions you want to carry forward. Why didn’t things go as planned? Not the excuses, what are the real causes? For example, did a task go uncompleted because your subject matter expert was ill?

Great, never allow your subject matter expert (SME) to be sick ever again. That is NOT reasonable. If your SME is the only one who can complete a particular activity, then you have a risk. And if you are not able to cross-train or to have more than one resource with this expertise, then the time will come when work will not go as planned.

Now is the perfect opportunity to capture lessons learned. In fact, I once worked with a project auditor who required a lessons learned section in all project status templates. Her point was that if we do not capture the lessons as we go, we will forget them. And she was right.

The end of each day, each week, each month is a perfect time to reflect. So far, we have been discussing your project status report. Now is the time to take an honest look, not just at your project, but at yourself as well. What are the personal and professional lessons that you wish to carry forward? And just as important, what do you need to leave behind?

Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present, and what to plan for in the future.
– Arnold H. Glasow

Several years ago, I worked for a manager who was very Theory X. He did not seem to believe in our ability to behave as professionals. He would go through our files and folders on a regular basis to ensure that we were not hiding anything from him.

He was a big believer in the post error walk through. It did not matter how small the error, you needed to resolve it and then you needed to sit in his office and go through what you did step-by-step. He always made sure to ask you multiple times exactly what your mistake was. I always walked away feeling like he had rolled up a newspaper and smacked me on the nose with it saying, “Bad software developer, bad software developer!”

Lessons learned are not just about what to repeat and what to improve. Lessons learned are also about letting go of the things that do not serve you. Not every mistake needs to be examined and discussed and turned into an opportunity for growth. Some things just need to be released. That one time error that your overworked and overtired team member made? Let it go. Or take the lesson to stop over allocating your resources.

Move forward with the valuable lessons and leave the rest in the past.