Thursday 3 February 2022

The Significance of the Lessons Learned: The Art of Successful Project Closure


Welcome to the world of Productive Laziness, a world that helps you focus on what really matters and achieve the results you and your customer need. In this article, we'll look at a part of the project that is often forgotten – closing the project. This point is often neglected or ignored in favor of further, more attractive proposals, "another big project". 


But this is the time for one last effort to improve life in the future. The Lazy Project Manager theory is based on the following aspect of "Productive Laziness": "


All projects are voluminous at the beginning, much less voluminous in the middle of the project, and again voluminous at completion." However, the end of the project is not yet the time to declare its success, hurrying to drink Blood Mary (Blood Mary)[1] in a bar. 


No, this is the time to make a small, final leap and at the same time gain a huge amount of knowledge with which future projects can be even more successful and, perhaps, with less effort. And less effort, as you know, means a lot more time for laziness in a "comfortable chair", but along a productive path.

"The earth is round, and what at first glance seems to be the end may also be just the beginning" (Father Ivy Baker).


You missed something, or nothing actually happened.

"As we know, there are known things: things that we know about, that we know them. We also know that there are known mysteries: that is, we know that there are some things that we don't know about. But there are also unknown things: those that we don't know about, that we don't know about them." Donald Rumsfeld (Department of Defense news briefing).

It's one of the crazy sets of words, but it actually makes sense overall. So, you are at the stage of completing the project. It has to be a success, or at least it doesn't have to be a complete failure, and you're about to take on a new project. But wait, do you really honestly know everything about the project? Do you know what you don't know? Well, of course not, you can't know that. 


Therefore, do not deceive yourself as if you know everything! So what do you do about it? Well, "what do you do about it" means doing something – now is the time to have a retrospective of your project, revise it, thoughtful and open action that will provide an opportunity to explore what you don't already know. Just like the beginning of a project, a very specific time when a project looks like a "hyped, shining new project...", a time of complete peace, love and shared well-being for all stakeholders, and the completion of a project, it is also a special period of time. 


This is a period of time when project team members are much more likely to communicate with you openly, honestly, and on an equal footing. Therefore, during this period of time, you need to seriously direct some efforts to understand how you can be more effective (and even more "Productively Lazy") next time.


Application of the "Productive Laziness" method


Finish what you started

As Mastermind's Master Quiz Master says,[2] "I've started, and so I'll finish," so you should make sure you're doing the same. Complete the project correctly and fully. Avoid all those usual pressures and temptations to take on the next big project that beckons you. Do your best to get a second chance at peace, love and harmony (hopefully) and learn all that can be learned. It will be worth it, I guarantee.


Find out what you know

Start with yourself. What do you know about the project? In general, a set of some knowledge is true, but try to focus less on what you already knew at the beginning of the project and think more about what new things you learned during the project. Much of what happened will, in fact, be taken from past projects and will be a repetition of past experience and knowledge, but some things are not. You learn throughout each project, so take into account what you've learned this time around. Now you know what you know, and maybe you also know what you don't know, the gaps in the knowledge gained during the project, the questions you can ask your team.


Find out what you don't know

Now let's focus on unknown unknowns. The ideal way to do this is to have a full retrospective of the project. If you can't do that, then at least gather feedback from key team members of your project. One of the best reference books on this subject is the "Retrospective of the Project" by Norman L. Kert. 


I like Kert's basic style by which he derives his retrospective: no matter what we discover, we must understand and sincerely believe that everyone performed their robot in the best possible way in that particular situation, providing what are called skills, abilities, and available resources. 

The whole value is that no one knows everything about the project and, of course, you are not the project manager (frankly, you do not think that your team told you about everything that happened during the project, right?) Therefore, we go to get gold, because in the studied lessons there are whole nuggets that you can get, or at least in the lessons to be learned, provided we are careful. 


At least one of the project team will tell you something that will help in the future, and give you the opportunity to be even more "productive-lazy". And the best way to achieve this goal is to plan how it will be and start by returning to the most voluminous part of the project, to the very beginning.


Ask yourself what you now need to know

As part of the retrospective process, make sure you take the opportunity to ask the questions you want answered. Remember? Things you know you don't know about, gaps in the experience gained during the course of the project, questions that need to be asked to your team. Complete the replenishment of knowledge with an open and honest dialogue with your team. The fact that you don't know something may surprise them, and they will be happy with the opportunity to help successfully complete the project.


Learn the lessons you need to learn

Okay, so let's sum it all up. Carefully and slowly.

- You Know What You Know

- You also know what you didn't know – gaps in your knowledge that you hope you've gotten answers to.

- Now you know what you knew, what you didn't know, through feedback from the team and other sources.

And, in retrospect, you at least know a little more about what you didn't know, what you didn't know, assuming the team was sincere with you.

Simple, isn't it?


Tell others what you now know

And finally, don't just sit with that knowledge. Spread this knowledge to anyone who can benefit from it. The lessons learned should be spread, so don't be stingy, spread them!

Network of logic of self-development (Fig.1) To summarize all of the above, this diagram will help. To move from conscious incompetence to conscious competence, learn something you don't know – a retrospective can help with that. And finally, it just takes a lot of practice to move from conscious competence to unconscious competence, so take action.


A project manager's account of an escape for no reason.

Start. And yes, I am a project manager under a question mark, much to my shame. For the most part, I'm really passionate about all of my projects. I'm not going to say that there haven't been challenges in all the years, high accomplishments and big setbacks, moments when I felt I needed to do more, but also good moments when I didn't want them to end. This story is about a project within a manufacturing company that had more failures than achievements. 


The project was challenging, it was a challenge (and at times it seemed close to impossible), the steering committee was problematic (to put it mildly), the project team was mixed in terms of interests and opportunities, and I was far from home. All of my experience as a project manager has been tested since day one, but I felt like I was on top. 


At best, until the very end of the project. So, in order to quickly move to a key point in history, the project has come to an end. The results were handed over and the company reluctantly agreed to sign the project. The job was done. Except for one thing. I got a hell of a kick out of those months and just wanted it all to come to an end. And so, the final meeting of the steering committee was held, the project was signed and, I must admit, I almost ran to my car, jumped inside and flew out of the parking lot insanely happy. 


The freeway leading home beckoned me, and with rock music roaring from the receiver, I decided to send it all into oblivion and never go back. I was one happy project manager. And then, I was asked to come back and do a retrospective analysis! My heart became heavy, and I found a hundred and one reasons why: I was very busy, very sick, incapacitated, "I needed to go to the party," and I was literally eager not to go back, and in the end, I didn't come back.

I didn't come back, but someone else did.

So, I did the following. My curiosity eventually took its toll, and sometimes after revising the project, staying with other project managers, I discovered many things that I never knew about my own project.

I discovered (through other managers) that the company had a very bad experience in previous similar projects and, as a result, everyone was alarmed by the current project, really very alarmed.

I found that the project was promoted strictly to the first priority by one of the members of the steering committee, despite the great resistance of the others and despite the threat to reputation and possibly career, which depended on the success of the project results.

I found that two people on the team had, shall we say, a vested interest throughout the early stages of the project and this led to some tension between them.

I found that there was a black hole in one area of the business where the goals and benefits of the project were not justified.

I discovered what everyone thought of me as a strong and competent project manager who may not have been focused enough on the human side of the project.

I personally opened, and none of the fellow project managers told me that I missed a big deal, leaving the project until its final outcome.

I personally discovered that I had to stay until the project was fully and properly completed, then I would have learned a lot.

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