Learning from your challenges

Professional service firms should strive for continuous improvement. Firms that systematically review project outcomes and decision-making processes and then make the necessary improvements in policies and procedures will improve their chances of a more favorable outcome the next time they encounter a challenging situation. Firms should consider developing a “Lessons Learned” program that is intended to improve firm performance over time by learning from completed projects.

The ACEC Risk Management Committee has developed a helpful publication called Management Rationale for Developing a Lessons Learned Program. Such a program focuses on identifying successes and failures on completed projects. This process is especially important if the project had a less than desirable outcome as far as profitability, or the project had disputes and liability claims. If the project being reviewed involved disputes and liability claims, firms should consult with their attorney to make sure that the lessons learned exercise does not compromise privileged or sensitive information.

The three key questions that an investigation should address are:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What needs to be improved?

After these questions are answered, the key is to make sure that the findings are summarized concisely and specific recommendations for improvement implemented across the organization.

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