Best Practices For Preparing a Lessons Learned Document

What do you do after you have finished a project that you and the team have been working on for months? You celebrate. But have you really completed the project? You might have drawn a conclusion, but your project is incomplete until you create a lessons-learned report. Just delivering the output won’t do. You need to document the challenges you faced while working on a project and the lessons you have learned.

This is going to benefit your personal and professional growth. But most importantly, a lessons-learned report is useful for the organization. It helps your teams learn things like — where they can improve or which tasks can be finished in less time. Basically, the teams that will work on similar projects in the future will use the lessons learned section in your project to finish it efficiently. The report also gives you insights into what you can improve the next time you work on a similar project.

What are Lessons Learned in Project Management?

Working on a project requires dedication, commitment, and knowledge of the subject. However, it’s equally important that you factor in the previous teams that have worked on similar projects in the past, the results they achieved, and the challenges they faced in order to get the best results. Simply put, you need a lessons-learned report that shows you the areas you can improve. There’s no way one can avoid mistakes. They are bound to be made, but repeating them repeatedly or not learning from the mistakes others have made in the past is not acceptable. That’s how the lessons learned is the part of project management.

Knowing what mistakes are possible in the project will help you avoid them and improve your performance significantly. The question is what exactly the “lessons learned” mean in the project management context. It means analyzing the lessons learned, distributing them to the people working on the same project, and documenting them in a report so they can be used in your current or future projects.

Lessons Learned Process

Recognize − The first step is to identify the things you will document in the lessons learned. You organize a meeting with the people involved in the project to discuss how you completed the project, what were the challenges, how you overcame them, what were your mistakes, and so on.

Document − With the help of the stakeholders, you need to record everything about the project.

Examine − You can hand these documents to experts, such as your leaders. They will figure out how to apply the new teachings to the upcoming projects.

Store − The information you have recorded must be stored in a system to ensure everyone can access and use it. Once they are stored, teams working on new projects must use the lessons learned records to learn from the previous projects.

How Can You Document This?

First things first, you need to record everything you have seen or handled while working on a specific project. This information should, then, be passed to the stakeholders or your supervisors. The report consists of all the information shared during the lessons learned sessions, including the comments of the employees. Once the report is created, everyone who was part of the project will get a copy, and they can rate the report based on its accuracy. This copy should be distributed to the entire team, including the members who could not participate for some reason.

As mentioned earlier, the report gives a summary of the project. It discusses subjects like what went well, what didn’t go well, where the team can improve, strengths and weaknesses, and recommendations. The leader and the management will review these reports, and they may ask for additional information.

How to Create the Lessons Learned Report?

Here’s what you need to consider when creating a lessons-learned report.

  • Understand your target audience. If you are creating a report for the team, it should contain the day-to-day activities and everything you experienced during the project in detail. If it’s for stakeholders, the report should be focused on what you achieved from the project, the challenges, strengths, what needs improvements, etc.

  • Conduct a survey and compile a report based on people’s responses.

  • Mention the key aspects, such as the best parts of the project and ways to improve the procedures.

  • Store these reports either in a hard drive or cloud so future teams can use them as and when required.

Lessons learned will help the organization avoid failure in the future. It also shows you the best practices that can improve your output in future projects. Besides that, it instills trust in your employees, as people feel more involved and encouraged when they get a chance to share their views on how the project turned out, what could have been improved, and how they liked working on the project. This detailed report affects the company’s performance and operations significantly.

Challenges with Lessons Learned Report

While it is the most crucial element of a project, creating a lessons-learned report is not easy. Here are some challenges that you might face while documenting them.

  • People might not implement the lessons learned in a future project. Usually, when things don’t go as planned, stakeholders adopt a formal approach to fixing things instead of looking at what previous employees did when they encountered the same challenges.

  • It’s hard to find the time to discuss the lessons learned with your team, especially when you are on a tight deadline and need the project to be finished quickly.

  • Employees might feel bad if they are blamed for things that didn’t work well. To avoid emotional issues, it’s best you hire someone who can give honest feedback.


Lessons learned should be part of every project, no matter how small it is. It might not be a formal report, but it’s quite helpful for the organization and your team. It shows where you made mistakes and what can be done to avoid them in the future.