One of the principles in PRINCE2 is that the project team must learn from experience. Lessons have to be sought, recorded, and executed during the project. PRINCE2 uses the word “sought” to ensure that everyone in the project checks for previous lessons. Any useful experiences are then recorded into a Lessons Log. Therefore, you can say that the Lessons Log is a repository for lessons that apply to this project and also for future projects as the Lessons Report is given to the Project Board at the end of the project.
Some lessons may come from other projects and should be captured on the Lessons Log for input to the project’s strategies and plan and this is one of the first things that a Project Manager will do in a project. Lessons may also originate from within the project as one of the most important questions a Project Manager should ask the end of a stage is: What lessons have we learned?
Lessons can be about anything that could help the project. These include how best to communicate, how to deal with a supplier, how certain documents should be tailored for the kind of project, and which product specialists to get help from when doing the product breakdown structure. The Project Manager continues to add new lessons to the Lessons Log during the project, and useful lessons should be incorporated into the current plans and Work Packages.
The Lessons Report is a document that lists the lessons gained during the project. It helps to avoid possible mistakes and to repeat positive actions in future projects. Any important lessons that can be applied to future projects should be listed in the Lessons Report. This report is created by the project manager using information from the Lessons Log and given to the Project Board at the end of the project. In large projects, the Lessons Report can also be created at the end of a stage.
Timeline Lessons Log
- The Lesson Log is first created in the Starting Up a Project process
- The Project Manager will try to gather lessons from all stakeholders and from previous projects
- The Lessons Log is continually updated during the project
- At the end of the project, the Lessons Log will be archived and the most useful lessons for future projects will be added to the Lessons Report.
Sample Lessons Log
- This sample Lessons Log is taken from the PEN sample project
- You can modify the columns to suit your requirements
- Some companies do not use the :-) :-( column
- The lesson (recommendation) text should be easy to read
- I (Frank) think the most important columns are Priority and Stage (when this lesson might be useful)
Source data for the Lessons Log
- Lessons Report from other projects
- Project mandate or Project Brief : The project mandate may also include a detailed Lessons Report
- Daily Log , Issue Register , Quality Register and Risk Register
- Checkpoint Report and Highlight Report
- Completed Work Package
- Stage Plans with actuals
- Observations project stakeholders / team.
Format of the Lessons Log
- Document, spreadsheet (mostly online) or database
- Entry in an online project management application
- Part of an online integrated project register for all risks, actions, decisions, assumptions, issues, lessons etc.
Quality Criteria for Lessons Log
- The status of the lessons should indicate if the lesson has already been used or action has been taken
- Lessons are uniquely identified, including to which product they refer and include priority and stage information as this makes it easier for the Project Manager to see which lessons should be taken into account when planning a next stage.
- The Project Manager plans regular time to review lessons
- Access to the Lessons Log is controlled and it may have not so positive comments regarding some stakeholders (e.g., Donald keeps changing his mind :-)
Content of the Lessons Log
- Unique identifier (e.g., 1, 2, …)
- Lesson / Recommendation which is easy to understand.
- Type: Each project can have their own category list; e.g., Team, Supplier, Legal. Quality.
- Priority: e.g., Very High, High, Medium, Low & Very Low
- Date that lesson was recorded
- Stage: Which stage of the project that this lesson may be useful
- Priority of lesson
- Lesson status: Has this lesson being used or has this lesson been of value?
Some tips from Frank
- The Project Manager should give themselves time to discover new lessons and follow up on existing lesson.
- The Project Manager should keep raising the topic of lessons when reviewing Work Packages
- Secure access to the Lesson Log as some of the lessons may be very confidential (e.g., We will stop working with Supplier X in October)
- Add the Stage column to the Lessons Log (this is not in the PRINCE2 template)