lessons learned success

Get twice as much out of your Lessons Learned Workshop

In our last post we presented the Lessons Learned Workshop as a format, explaining both the process and the (actually measurable) added value.

This article now focuses on tips for implementation and moderation and is now aimed at everyone who conducts or plans such Lessons Learned Workshops in practice.

Let's start!

Tip 1: Use the “5x Why” method in the Lessons Learned Workshop

There are two scenarios when discussing problems: Either you have a lively discussion about the different perspectives of the team members. Or one agrees relatively quickly and does not even go deeper into the cause research. Would only be lost time, right?

Agreement on a topic may feel good, but it can be tricky. Especially in discussion points in which a third party (often other departments) are identified as the cause of the problem, one does not take enough care to understand the main causes and their effect chains correctly. Without this understanding, it becomes difficult to derive an effective measure.

As a moderator, use the so-called “5x Why Method” and question the consensus in the group by asking the “Why question” 5 times and asking for a serious answer. This food for thought often opens up new perspectives. Here is a Example of the Jefferson Memorial as an explanation of the method - a classic:

  • Moderator: "Why is it so expensive to maintain the Jefferson Memorial?"
  • Team: “Because it has to be cleaned so often with a pressure washer.”
  • Moderator: “Why?”
  • Team: “Because so many birds leave their droppings on it.”
  • Moderator: “Why?”
  • Team: “Because the birds feed on the many insects there.”
  • Moderator: “Why are there so many insects there?”
  • Team: “Because they are attracted to the lighting in the early evening.”
  • Team member: "Let's try turning on the lights a little later!"

So take the cause research seriously. See what possibilities there are to become active as a team instead of accepting the cause of problems as a “external framework”.

Tip 2: make lessons learned workshop routine

There is also a learning curve for Lessons Learned in the team: The first dates can be a bit bumpy: the time frame is not kept, topics are not brought to the point, measures are not well formulated etc.

Only when you have carried out this workshop format a few times in a team does it become a routine and the added value increases:

  • Team members are better prepared because they know the agenda
  • Team members have fewer reservations about addressing critical issues (see the most important basic requirement for successful teams)
  • Problems are analyzed in depth
  • Measures and findings are neatly developed and recorded

However, these advantages can only be achieved if you make it a routine. So see if there are regular milestones for which you want to establish Lessons Learned Workshops, or set a frequency yourself. Depending on the tightness of teamwork, a frequency of 2-weeks to monthly is our recommendation.

Tip 3: Record measures transparently and take them up again

The measures resulting from the Lessons Learned Workshops must of course be made transparent for the team afterwards.

In addition, it is just as important to revisit them in the next workshops. So make the review of existing measures a fixed agenda item of every Lessons Learned Workshop.

It is not just about determining whether those responsible have done their job. It is much more important to learn from the results of the measures - after all, it is called Lessons LEARNED 🙂

Only if you take up the measures again can you learn whether or not the measures decided could solve the core problem. It may just as well turn out that the suspected root cause is not the main reason for a problem. Then it is all the more important to talk about it, to share the knowledge within the team and to react with a new measure - or a new “experiment”.

A measure, provided it is carried out and reviewed, has a guarantee of success: namely that you learn from its implementation. You either learn that the underlying hypotheses were correct and that the measure worked. Or you just learn that the suspected core cause or the solution is wrong. Therefore, consider measures as experiments.

If necessary, here too Tool like Echometer help. Because with Echometer you have integrated measure tracking for all your recurring Lessons Learned appointments

Tip 4: Promote error culture - beyond the Lessons Learned Workshop

The best way to learn is from mistakes. That is why it is so important to be able to address mistakes in the team openly. This is the only way to make learning from every mistake and every misfortune. It is not without reason that error culture is one of the components of most important basic requirement for successful teams.

In order to promote this error culture in the team, the so-called “Prime directive“(In German“ Supreme Directive ”) emerged. Behind this is a guiding principle that teams should internalize in every lesson learned workshop and beyond:

"We assume that everyone involved has acted to the best of their knowledge, belief and level of knowledge at all times."

If you take this principle to heart, you can create a team culture in which team members support each other to do their job as best as possible - without finger pointing and blaming.

Lessons Learned Workshop - Get started now

Lessons Learned Workshops are therefore an integral part of learning organizations. At the same time, they promote the self-organization of teams and enable a continuous employee-driven "bottom-up" improvement process.

So have fun getting started with the format! 

And if your team decides to anchor Lessons Learned Workshops aka Team Retrospectives as a regular format take a look at the Echometer tool. With our templates and templates, it not only saves you an enormous amount of time in the regular implementation of lessons learned workshops, but also supports your team development from a psychological perspective.

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Christian Heidemeyer, Psychologist & Scrum Master