The mythical Lessons Learned Log

How many times have you heard someone say “Stick it on the lessons learned log”?

And how many times have you actually known someone to put something on it? What is the lessons learned log anyway?

Improving the way we do things is important. Critical even.

But often, particularly with a waterfall approach, learning the lessons of the past can be made more difficult because by the time we’re ready to take heed of such incites, we’ve forgotten the original context.

And more to the point, it’s not just about “sticking it on the lessons learned log”. It’s about learning the lessons. It’s about adapting behaviours. Changing the way we do things

A lesson isn’t learned simply because it’s on the log. A lesson is learned when we take heed, and do things differently.

With agile it’s different, because it’s built in to the methodology itself.

Kaizen, the Japanese word for “good change” (Kai = Change, Zen = Good)” is used to describe the concept of continuous improvement through the technique of “inspect and adapt” – often run as a Retrospective.

Scrum, for example, has four points where Kaizen is written in to the script: the Sprint Review, the Sprint Retrospective, Sprint Planning and the daily standup.

If you assume that a Sprint is, say, 3 weeks long – that’s a lot of time and effort dedicated to working out how to get better. And then actually getting better.

Continuous improvement is a useful mantra, but “relentless improvement” drives the message harder, which I prefer.

Why?

Because when timescales are tight and the pressure is on, it is (ironically) the Retrospective which is often sacrificed.

Better stick that on the lesson learned log.

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