Practical KM Hint #9: Post-Project Knowledge Capture

Following the previous blogpost (see Q13- Learning = KM + “Power of the Third Kind”?), a project team learns while doing a project. However, much of this learning is unconscious and would be forgotten unless a Post-Project Knowledge Capture is done. Basically the same trigger questions listed in the previous blogpost can be used for this procedure.

Learning should be pursued at three levels. The main question is: What learning do you need to document which will benefit those who will do a similar project in the future?

1. Learning concepts, especially gaining better understanding of how things work. A trigger question to surface this is:

    What new insights did you gain?

2. Learning what works or how to make things work better, especially learning new skills or sharpening existing skills. The trigger questions to surface these are:

    What worked?
    What did not work and why?
    What external factors facilitated (or hindered) success?
    How differently would you do it next time to achieve better performance?

The answers to these questions constitute knowledge; they can be sought along three areas (see F1- KM is not enough!):

    Human capital: new or better skills, what specific aptitudes to look for in applicants to particular positions, who was (not) good at what, etc.
    Structural capital: new or better work templates, checklists, software, enabling policies, manuals, guidelines, risks checklist, process documentation, workflow diagram, etc.
    Relationship capital: supportive external organizations or persons, directory of buyers, suppliers network, “Who Knows Who” directory, membership in e-commerce groups, useful “connections” in government, who was against the project, etc.

In a multi-country project, we decided to have three sub-groups go through the Level 2 questions separately: one for project development including project design, a second for project implementation and a third sub-group for cross-country cooperation and local government coordination. This sub-grouping made sense because in this particular project different people were involved in the three phases. A helpful advice for big projects: pre-work to collect documents for this part can make the lessons-learned session faster and easier.

3. Learning new paradigms, or freeing yourself from one of your mental boxes. The trigger questions to surface this are:

    Did you change the way you see or think about something?
    The “why” part in: What did not work and why?

In my opinion, the third level of learning is most important because a better paradigm increases one’s capacity to see new things one hardly saw before — thus enabling even faster learning. The “why” part in the question What did not work and why? can lead to improvement or even innovation. Something did not work because we failed to recognize something; the “why” question can help reveal this. The third level of learning is facilitated by extra doses of reflection, honesty and humility, i.e. the Power of the Third Kind.

By mid-2009 CCLFI will co-publish a manual on post-project knowledge capture. As part of its public service, CCLFI will also give it for free. Watch for it.

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