How Can We Help?

Search for answers or browse our knowledge base.

Documentation | Demos | Support

< All Topics

PMO Mini-Masterclass: Facilitating Learning Not Lessons

The PMO Mini-Masterclass on Facilitating Learning Not Lessons was all about the role the PMO can play in facilitating the lessons learnt process and also how we can get better at helping organisations actually learn from past projects.
The aim of the session was: We focused on the role of the PMO in collecting lessons learnt – facilitation – and the role the PMO should play in taking action to ensure lessons really are learnt.
This session went beyond the mere act of collecting lessons and sticking them in a database – this was about the proactive role that the PMO can take in ensuring learning takes place in the project organisation.
We often talk about the PMO ‘adding value’ to the organisation – providing a great service here will do just that. 2016-09-29-18-36-18The evening session included:

  1. Understanding what lessons learnt are and why they are important
  2. Interactive sessions on facilitating and collection skills
  3. Understanding why we don’t learn from lessons
  4. Interactive session on what PMO can do with lessons recorded to turn them into lessons learnt
  5. Further practical advice on what the PMO can do within the lessons learnt service area.


The Video

The video is 53 minutes long:

The Presentation

>> The PowerPoint presentation from Ken Burrell >> The Facilitation presentation from Eileen Roden >> Facilitator Crib Sheet

The Interactive Session I

8 10

The Interactive Session I Outputs

The groups were asked to discuss what they have learnt about the whole “lessons learnt” process from their experiences. For each group there was one facilitator who had volunteered for the role. Each group worked to produce this simple framework which would then show success areas, watch areas and learning areas. 2016-09-29-19-24-22

Success Areas

Here is the list of outcomes that our PMO professionals had confirmed were successes in the lessons learnt process from their experiences:

  • The creation of a knowledge management database
  • The use of a lessons learnt questionnaire has been simple- six questions means easy to complete and collate feedback (Note – we will try to get this example!)
  • Some evidence that learnings were used on new projects (Note – would be interesting to see how this was evidenced)
  • Something useful always comes out of lessons learnt workshops that hadn’t been thought of before.
  • “After Action Reviews” are useful with the whole team to drive action and process for change.
  • Lessons are always recorded centrally and accessible to all.
  • Lessons seem to happen through word of mouth, related to the type of company culture it is for this to happen (it relies on people being proactive)
  • Good clearly defined process for lessons is in place (although tailoring of process is required in some circumstances)
  • Lessons are held through continuity of PMO staff – a log would never work.
  • The organisation knows that the lessons learnt process should happen.
  • Process used to give an opportunity to share good feedback about the project too.
  • The lessons learnt workshops are generally open and honest discussions.
  • The PMO curates/ combines and researches lessons to make them as valuable as possible (Note – interesting word “research”)
  • The lessons learnt process also helps the team to build good future relationships.
  • The PMO does actively collect the lessons regularly.
  • A huge variety and history of lessons have already been collated.
  • Lessons are held on a shared and detailed SharePoint database.
  • We have a template which encourages thinking about lessons learnt at the end of the project.

Watch Areas

These are considered the areas that whilst there may not be a direct lesson to be learnt and acted on today, we should watch and consider these in the future. Here are the points raised in this category:

  • The PMO as a memory / the “conscious” of a change function (Note – not sure what they means but sounds interesting, discuss!)
  • Lessons are collected but are hidden away and not used (Note – is this in the right category?!)
  • Make the number #1 lesson happen.
  • Capture lessons at each stage gate.
  • Don’t leave lessons learnt until the end of the project.
  • Lessons not being shared within the teams in the same programme.
  • The environment needs to be safe, not a blame culture.
  • Changes to the process are being caused by just one bad experience meaning lots of changes are happening.
  • Project Managers are reluctant to share problems due to the company culture.
  • Not following through on actions coming out of the lessons learnt process (Note – think this needs to move to the category below)
  • When a specific link is made to a process change then lesson is learnt and put into practice (Note – does this mean we need to think harder about the ones that are not necessarily related to a known process?)
  • Reflections are done regularly and awareness and action is created -but just by the people in the conversation.
  • Tailoring of process needed in certain circumstances.
  • Need to encourage an environment of trust.
  • Lessons log is only used by Project Managers and not by others in the organisation (Note – interesting point this, is lessons only a project management thing?)
  • Project Managers don’t think about how they tailor the lesson to their projects.

Learning Areas

These are the main points raised which in theory means we, the PMO, should be actively working to “do” something about it. Here are the main points:

  • We’re failing to get people and the organisation to learn
  • People are disengaged in the lessons learnt process.
  • Lessons learnt are huge documents that are never read.
  • We have too many lessons learnt to review.
  • We need better objective setting for lessons learnt.
  • Need to make sense of the “he said” “she said” and how to get real learning out.
  • Problems with storage – not setting the scene adequately, not dissecting well enough, not giving out contact details for those involved.
  • People can’t find lessons that are relevant to their projects
  • A lack of curation
  • Trying to encourage positive learnings rather than just negative ones.
  • We don’t have a common process or steps across the organisation for lessons learnt.
  • Senior managers attempt to stage manage the process with certain facilitators before the session.
  • People see it as a box ticking exercise and don’t really care about sharing learning.
  • Lessons are captured but not referred to or remembered.
  • We’re too limited in who we ask to provide feedback.
  • We keep making the same mistakes
  • Seen too much as fault finding rather than the positives.
  • Nothing ever gets done.

A session like this enables us to collectively see where current PMO practitioners are when it comes to the lessons learnt service they currently provide. Sometimes it’s enough to know that there are others in exactly the same boat as you. With the PMO Flashmob we think let’s get this information out there in the wider community and then think about what we can do to help work on these learning areas. The other learning that came out of that first session was the role of facilitator. Not many people in the room that night had any formal facilitation training, yet we are expected to run lessons learnt workshops. Eileen shared some information that might be useful for people who consider this a skills gap area:

Facilitation Related Training

APMG Certification APMG have Foundation and Practitioner level certification.  Details can be found here: along with a list of certified training providers. The text used for the certification is: facilitation NB: This is not the same version as that available on Amazon and can only be bought from APMG Books:[0]=field_qualification%3A48b (though most training providers include one in their course materials). International Association of Facilitators ( They see themselves as a worldwide community of facilitators.  Association provides membership and some great resources as well as a free to download competency framework. International Institute for Facilitation ( Holders of a standard for becoming a Certified or Certified Master in Facilitation.

The Interactive Session II

2016-09-29-19-58-30 4We could set a interactive session that looked specifically at some of the learning areas but we thought, we have a great space at 8works plus they helped us think about some sessions that they use with their clients and we particularly liked this idea because it encourages us to think differently about an age old problem. The groups were given a logo of a well known brand. Using the model of learning from Ken’s presentation, the group were asked to imagine how would Ryan Air deal with the whole lessons learnt process. How would they capture lessons? Store and retrieve them? Thinking about what a brand stands for and then thinking about “how would they deal with this?”

The Interactive Session II Outputs

marks Here are the brands and the points that were raised about each of them:


  • Predominantly digital capture of lessons
  • And continuous capture of lessons (Note – in real-time?)
  • Retrieval would be through Siri style prompts – through various points or stages in the plan
  • There would be a lessons learnt app – but also multimedia
  • Number of contributions made would lead to rewards
  • And it would be linked to risks
  • Lessons could be pushed.
  • FaceTime available of those who’s lessons have been recorded.



  • The lessons would be predominantly customer focused and full of complaints!
  • They would rely on their customers to do the lessons learnt process and not themselves doing it.
  • The lessons learnt process would be quick
  • They would consider the impact of lessons on others and not just internally.
  • There would be a constant feedback loop
  • More personable and less formal.
  • The storage would be instant access and basic to use.
  • They would have informal workshops rather than just a database
  • And they would have only a few categories in the database for easier retrieval.
  • Application of lessons would be inconsistent due to geographical differences.
  • Applications would be only what is critical to function – related to profit.



  • The process would be a lot more fun with storytelling, visual story boards, using humour and characters.
  • Storage would be storyboards, filsm, video clips, interviews – more showy with music etc
  • Retrieval would be helped with a narrator – how to find videos and films


Marks and Spencer

  • The lessons would be based on fact, customer focused and evidence driven.
  • The process would change depending on which line of business
  • They would use their strong values of innovation and trust -operational quality available to all.
  • They would make time for reflection – and pay attention to the detail.
  • They would ensure that the data is accurate – therefore knowing their decisions are based on good data.
  • Quick to adjust tactics but slow to adjust strategies.
  • They would use staff to trial new lines
  • Probably have a slow established process to retrieve learning
  • Use respected/trusted staff to disseminate lessons learnt / behaviours
  • Learnings would be very people centric
  • Impression that their lessons are not learnt fully either.


Was this article helpful?
0 out of 5 stars
5 Stars 0%
4 Stars 0%
3 Stars 0%
2 Stars 0%
1 Stars 0%
Please Share Your Feedback
How Can We Improve This Article?
Next PMOs Supporting Modern Project Management – Facilitation
Table of Contents