5 Lessons I learned writing a book about learning lessons

I recently published my book Learning Lessons from Projects: How it works, why it goes wrong, and how you can do it better.

My former colleague Andrew Fleming commented “Well done on the book. What lessons did you learn from writing it?”

As that’s a really good question, I thought I’d answer it properly in the form of this blog post.

So what did I learn? Here are my top five learning points. Continue reading “5 Lessons I learned writing a book about learning lessons”

Learning lessons from projects

I’ve always had something of a bee in my bonnet about lessons learned.

It saddens me to think that many organisations don’t fully exploit the learning that passes under their noses every day from running projects. I have long thought that there must be something that we in the project management community can do to improve the situation.

So I have written a book, Learning Lessons from Projects: How it works, how it goes wrong, and how you can do it better, and various resources to accompany it.

This book looks at how organisations learn from the experience of running projects, and how this can go wrong. It looks into how failures can creep in at the various stages of the learning process, and offers to project managers and project management office (PMO) people some practical suggestions as to how to make things better.

The book is available exclusively from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions:

As part of the writing process, I have:

  • Created three prototypes of lessons learned databases that you can build yourself (in a spreadsheet, in Trello®, and in Microsoft® SharePoint®) with instructions on how to do it yourself.
  • Created a companion web page to host some of the resources I talk about in the book.
  • Proposed a simple video interview format as an alternative to the traditional Lessons Learned report
  • Recorded a series of videos using my proposed format so you can see what they look like, and
  • Made the audio from the interviews available as a podcast that you can download to your mobile device (from your device, just search your favourite podcast directory for Pragmatic PMOCast)

So that you can judge for yourself whether they would be useful.

You can take a sneak peek inside the book using this Kindle previewer:

I hope you find the book interesting, and a useful addition to your PMO bookshelf.

Agile Retrospectives: Making good teams great (Book Review)


  • The aim of the book is to introduce a structure for retrospectives and to walk the reader through planning, designing and leading a retrospective, with activities and guidance on how to use them
  • The book appears to be aimed at people who want to use retrospectives in their organizations, whether these organisations are currently using Agile techniques or not.

Continue reading “Agile Retrospectives: Making good teams great (Book Review)”

Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance (Book Review)


  • This very popular book looks at the relationships between success, failure, and improvement.

  • Drawing from approaches used by aviation and sport, it suggests ways to improve how we think about our experience to learn how to do things better.
  • Unusually for a book review on this blog, this book is not aimed at project management professionals particularly, but falls more into the category of “general self help”. I reviewed it because so many of my project management professional friends told me that I should read it (including the PMO Flashmob Book Club night)!

Continue reading “Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance (Book Review)”

Lessons Learned: Specific or Universal?


At a recent PMO FlashMob event, I got chatting with a few FlashMobbers about what can be done with the Lessons identified in project closure reports. There were split opinions in the group:

  • Some thought that Lessons are usually specific to the Project concerned, and are only useful in later stages of the same project, or in running future projects that are very similar to the one from which the Lessons were learned;
  • Others (including me) thought that it is possible to extract more generic learning from at least some Lessons that can be implemented across many projects (even those that are different from the project that identified the Lesson), perhaps by adding or making a small change to a checklist, template, approach, BAU process or corporate PM methodology, or by including the Lesson in PM training or coaching.

I have written before about Lessons Learned and my ideas on how to use them, but I thought it might be fun to try an experiment, with which I would be grateful for your help. Continue reading “Lessons Learned: Specific or Universal?”

Processes are an organisation’s memory

Further to my post on Lessons Learned from project delivery, I’m going to take a calculated risk by standing up for the pragmatic application of process. Yes, that’s right, process.

Processes are an organisations memory

Now, people seem to enjoy a bit of process-bashing, and I get that: nobody wants to have their working lives organised for them to the point where they become a soul-less, heartless, brainless robot, but I am proposing the idea that processes are an organisation’s memory. Continue reading “Processes are an organisation’s memory”

How to make sure that Lessons Learned stay that way

I often wonder just how much project management organisations really learn from project successes and mistakes. I think we could all definitely learn better than we currently do.

How to make sure lessons learned stay that way Continue reading “How to make sure that Lessons Learned stay that way”