Learning Lessons for Organizational Learning, Process Improvement, and Innovation

Learning Lessons for Organizational Learning, Process Improvement, and Innovation

Susan G. McIntyre (Defence Research and Development, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6453-1.ch002
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Abstract

The lessons learned process provides a methodology for groups and organizations of any size to become better at what they do. Its beauty is in its simplicity and versatility. It can be used by individuals, small- or medium-sized teams, and any-sized corporations. What makes it differ from other process improvement or evaluation methods is the focus on the capturing and analysis of lessons by the very people who experienced the learning situations and those people who will benefit from future adaptations. As such, the lessons learned process is linked to organizational learning and, at its very best, will inspire innovational changes that lead to excellence. This chapter defines and scopes lessons learned; describes the basic methodology, applications, and types; and provides anecdotal examples of three scales of the process.
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Background

Definitions of lessons learned have been adequately collected elsewhere (Milton, 2010) and do not require re-examination here. In general, however, it is agreed that a lesson is not really “learned” until organizational behaviour has changed indefinitely. The lesson itself is the result of identifying desired effects and outcomes by analyzing observations from experience. Perhaps it is more useful to describe, as NATO has done, the purpose of the overall process:

The purpose of a Lessons Learned procedure is to learn efficiently from experience and to provide validated justifications for amending the existing way of doing things, in order to improve performance, both during the course of an operation and for subsequent operations. This requires lessons to be meaningful and for them to be brought to the attention of the appropriate authority able and responsible for dealing with them. It also requires the chain of command to have a clear understanding of how to prioritise lessons and how to staff them. (NATO, 2011, p. 1).

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