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Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Author: Sophia Tutorial

This lesson provides an overview of documenting lessons learned.

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What's Covered

This lesson provides an overview of documenting lessons learned including:

  1. Documenting Lessons Learned
  2. Communicating Lessons Learned


Lessons learned are documented during the closing process of a project.   It is a shorthand description for the information gained from a current project that can assist future projects and improve the quality of the project management and deliverable creation.

As a formal document that is archived and accessed by the organization, and should be available to all project managers. The information documented as lessons learned should be relevant and topical to the organization.

Elements of a lessons learned document include:

  1. Red flags:  any events or issues that created stress in the project. The events were not predicted by the management team. For lessons learned, describe these issues and note how the issues were resolved so future projects can learn from the experience and hopefully prevent the same issues from occurring.
  2. Innovative approaches:  any innovation that was used in the project and could be used in a future project. This might include innovations with the development of deliverables or innovations with the project management.
  3. Critical success factors:  include factors that were critical and necessary for the project's completion.
  4. Key risks:  only the risks that might impact future projects are documented.  Document the contingencies used for these risks as well.
  5. Project deliverables:   performance or quality issues and why they occurred and suggest how it might be avoided in the future.
  6. External resources:  what external resources were an issue for the project?  Recommendations can be provided on future projects.
  7. Project failure:  performance or quality issue, document why that occurred and suggest how it might be avoided in the future.  Even a failed project has value if it helps avoid failure for future projects.

To obtain these lessons learned, a project manager must cooperate with the team and the stakeholders. Interviews, surveys, and questionnaires are all excellent methods to gather the necessary details.

When documenting the list of lessons learned, a project manager must use discretion. Often internal or confidential information is expressed in these lessons.  A project manager should also be sensitive when noting individuals in the lessons learned document.

Terms to Know

Lessons Learned

Information gained from a current project that can be used in future projects to improve overall quality of project management.


If possible, the best method to communicate the lessons learned to the team is with a team meeting. This way, everyone receives the information in the same manner. Questions can be asked, and the project manager can provide answers to the team as a whole.

Prior to the meeting, the project manager should prepare the lessons learned document for distribution.

Step by Step

Step 1.  Create a draft version of the document
Step 2.  Share draft with key members and gather their comments
Step 3.  Incorporate comments to create a final version
Step 4. Share revised document with the project sponsor and key stakeholders via meeting or electronically

As with a team meeting, a live presentation is best. However, if that is not possible, comments from the stakeholders should be incorporated into the lessons learned document .

Once this is done, the document can be shared with the team. It can also be shared with the entire organization at this time using whatever method is commonly used. The material should also be warehoused, along with the other project records.


In this lesson, you learned how to document lessons learned and now understand that it should include elements such as red flags and innovative approaches. While red flags are included, it should not include every risk - only those key to future projects. Communicating lessons learned should be conducted within a team meeting if possible in order to answer any questions.

Good luck!  

Source: This work adapted from Sophia Author Jeff Carroll.

Terms to Know
Lessons Learned

Information gained from a current project that can be used in future projects to improve overall quality of project management.