Project Management Institute

Project know-how



During more than 20 years practicing project management throughout Europe, I have found that project managers universally do not have time to stop, analyze and learn from past mistakes and successes during the project life cycle.

Years ago, I was working for a multinational company that sold customer IT projects, and I was responsible for defining and implementing a knowledge management process. Our project office supported junior and senior project managers, but all of them said, “We are reinventing the wheel for every new project.”

As a solution-selling organization, we had to achieve profitable results from our customer projects—but our project results were not very good. On the other hand, the strategic direction was to improve and achieve the next maturity level for our consulting organization. I proposed and received a green light from upper managers to start implementing improved processes using a project office.

Initially we started by identifying projects in our portfolio and also by identifying the skills and experiences of project managers in the organization. Then the project office delivered a presentation to project managers about how to collect useful information during the project life cycle, considering the time and cost restrictions in our organization. The result was to implement “project snapshots,” half-day sessions to capture lessons learned, identify knowledge for reuse and identify opportunities for skill or methodology improvement for all project stakeholders.

These sessions allowed us to:

  1. Reflect upon successes and lessons learned in project selling and implementation phases
  2. Focus on key themes such as project and scope management, communications, issue management, problems and successes
  3. Leverage successes and learning to more effectively deliver subsequent phases or projects for clients
  4. Identify tools and best practices to be shared more broadly.

Everyone on the project was better aligned, and both the project and sales teams understood client perspectives.

Moving forward, time was dedicated to those sessions in every project plan across the organization. For professionals, these sessions helped leverage team members’ work and experience through sharing lessons learned. All team members understood what each person was working on, so issues were resolved earlier in the project. Everyone on the project was better aligned, and both the project and sales teams understood client perspectives (when clients were involved in the sessions).

In addition, other project teams were able to reuse existing tools, identify project teams that had completed similar projects and utilize their learning to enhance project outcomes and avoid costly mistakes. At the organizational level, non-value-adding work was eliminated so more attention could be placed on improving customer satisfaction and increasing sales.

Project Snapshots

Any project manager can use project snapshots. The session itself takes no more than two hours if planned properly, and the PMO and the project manager need two or three hours of session preparation. After the session, they usually spend about one more hour for reporting purposes.

There are four steps:

  1. Prepare the session. The PMO works with the project manager to gather background and identify one or two major project areas or subjects to discuss during the session, create an agenda and invite session participants.
  2. Conduct the session. The project manager, using the PMO as a facilitator, reviews the purpose and themes to discuss, sets the ground rules with the group and defines the process.
  3. Collect learning. The facilitator takes notes of key lessons or material to be submitted, pulling out sufficient details from the participants so that results are reusable, and prepares a formal presentation. The facilitator probes meeting attendees for what went well, lessons learned, recommendations, key collateral and/or intellectual material for reuse.
  4. Share the learning. The project manager and selected team members share their experiences with the appropriate parties. The PMO distributes outcomes to teams responsible for any elements used in the project, including solution development teams and people development managers.

After the session, the facilitator collects the outcomes on a document or template and reviews it with the project manager prior to distributing to the team or posting on the Web site.

The PMO plays the role of facilitator and reporter in those sessions. In my first project snapshot sessions, the project office helped the project manager in all preparation and logistics. As an experienced project manager, I facilitated those sessions and trained the project managers to do it. The results were very good. Participants commented, “It was a great opportunity to talk among team members and managers openly” and “To think and discuss what happened and not who was ‘guilty’ has been great.”

After seven years, I am running these sessions for customers in different countries and getting the same feedback. While there are some differences from country to country in Europe, based on different cultures and behaviors, the results always are valuable. PM

Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia. He is the author of Project Management—A New Vision and contributor to Creating the Project Office.

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