leason learned artifact

What is lesson learned?


Lesson learned is an artifact commonly used in agile businesses to capture and share knowledge gained from past experiences. This practice helps organizations improve their processes, avoid repeating mistakes, and identify areas for continuous improvement. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of using lesson learned in agile businesses, provide examples of how it has been used by companies like Google, IBM, and Meta, and offer guidance on avoiding a common antipattern associated with this practice.

History of Lessons Learned

The concept of Lessons Learned dates back to the military, where it was used to capture and share the knowledge gained from past battles. In the business world, the term was popularized in the 1980s as part of Total Quality Management (TQM), a business strategy focused on continuous improvement.

Lessons Learned is an artifact that captures knowledge and experience gained from a project. It can be used to document successes and failures, capture best practices, and identify areas for improvement. Lessons Learned can be captured through various methods such as surveys, interviews, and meetings.

Pros and Cons of Lesson learned

Pros of Lesson learned:

  1. Improved project performance: By capturing and documenting lessons learned, teams can improve their project performance by identifying what worked well and what didn’t, and applying these insights to future projects.

  2. Better decision making: Capturing and sharing lessons learned can help teams make better-informed decisions by providing them with a more complete understanding of project successes and failures.

  3. Continuous improvement: Lesson learned provides a mechanism for continuous improvement by enabling teams to identify areas where they can improve and take steps to address them.

Cons of Lesson learned:

  1. Time-consuming: Documenting lessons learned can be time-consuming and may take valuable resources away from other project work.
  2. Difficulty in implementation: Teams may struggle to implement lessons learned due to the lack of understanding or lack of willingness to accept feedback.
  3. Difficulty in capturing all relevant information: It can be challenging to capture all relevant information and insights from a project, which may lead to incomplete or inaccurate documentation.

Real Case of Usages of Lesson learned:

In real-life lesson learned has helped businesses so much here there are some researches out-comes that might be attractive to read:

  • A survey by PMI found that 61% of organizations have a formal process for capturing and sharing lessons learned, and 78% of those organizations reported an improvement in project performance as a result of this process (PMI, 2017).
  • Another survey by PMI found that the top benefits of capturing lessons learned were improved project outcomes (70%), better-informed decision-making (65%), and a culture of continuous improvement (59%) (PMI, 2017).
  • In a study of software development projects, researchers found that teams that documented lessons learned had higher levels of performance than teams that did not, particularly in terms of efficiency and customer satisfaction (Dingsøyr et al., 2012).

1- Case study of Usage of Lesson learned in IBM

IBM is a company that has been using lesson learned for many years to improve its performance. IBM has a formal process for capturing and sharing lessons learned, which includes documentation of experiences, sharing of knowledge across teams, and identification of best practices. As a result of this process, IBM has documented over 20,000 lessons learned in its lessons learned database, which is used by teams across the organization to improve project performance.

IBM is a company that has been using lesson learned for many years to improve its performance. IBM has a formal process for capturing and sharing lessons learned, which includes documentation of experiences, sharing of knowledge across teams, and identification of best practices. As a result of this process, IBM has documented over 20,000 lessons learned in its lessons learned database, which is used by teams across the organization to improve project performance.

2- Case study of Usage of Lesson learned in Google

Google is another company that has embraced the use of lesson learned. Google uses a process called “retrospectives” to capture and share lessons learned at the end of each project iteration. During these retrospectives, team members reflect on what worked well, what didn’t work well, and what they can do differently in the future.  These retrospectives have been credited with improving team communication and collaboration (Kniberg & Skarin, 2013).

3- Case study of Usage of Lesson learned in Meta

Meta (formerly Facebook) is a third company that uses lesson learned to improve its performance. Meta has a culture of continuous improvement and encourages its teams to share their experiences and learn from each other. In addition to documenting lessons learned, Meta uses a tool called “Dibbs” to allow team members to share best practices and ask for help from their colleagues.

Antipatterns of lesson learned artifacts

Antipatterns in the context of lesson learned artifacts refer to common mistakes or pitfalls that teams make when implementing or utilizing the artifact. 

Commun Antipatterns of lesson learned

  1. One common antipattern is the “set it and forget it” approach, where teams create a lesson learned document but fail to revisit or update it regularly. This can lead to outdated information and missed opportunities for improvement.
  2. Another common antipattern is the “blame game” approach, where the lesson learned document is used as a tool to assign blame or point fingers rather than focusing on learning and improvement. This can create a toxic work environment and hinder progress.

Avoid antipatterns of lesson learned

To avoid these antipatterns, it is important for teams to establish a culture of continuous improvement and learning. This means regularly revisiting and updating the lesson learned document, and using it as a tool for constructive feedback and improvement rather than blame.

Real case study of antipatterns of leason learned in NASA

One real case study of antipatterns in the use of lesson learned artifacts comes from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In a study of JPL’s lessons learned process, it was found that teams often failed to update or utilize the lessons learned database, and that there was a culture of blame rather than learning and improvement. The study recommended a shift towards a culture of learning and improvement, with more emphasis on revisiting and utilizing the lessons learned database.

A solution for NASA to imrove leason learned management

To avoid antipatterns, teams can also establish clear guidelines and processes for utilizing the lesson learned artifact, and provide training and support for team members to effectively use and update the document. Regularly reviewing and analyzing the data from the artifact can also help teams identify any areas for improvement in their usage.

Sample lesson learned from Google

During a recent software development project, it was discovered that poor communication among team members led to delays and misunderstandings. As a result, the project was completed behind schedule and over budget.

Method for Utilizing:

  1. Document the lesson learned: The team should document the lesson learned in a clear and concise manner, including the specific details of the issue and the steps taken to address it.

  2. Share with the team: The lesson learned should be shared with the entire team, along with any relevant stakeholders. This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of the issue and can take steps to avoid it in the future.

  3. Discuss in a retrospective meeting: During the retrospective meeting, the team should discuss the lesson learned and brainstorm strategies to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. This could include establishing clear communication protocols or holding regular check-ins to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

  4. Incorporate into future projects: The lesson learned should be incorporated into future projects, with the team utilizing the strategies developed in the retrospective meeting to avoid similar issues. This could include implementing new communication tools or establishing regular team meetings.

By following this method, the team can effectively utilize the lesson learned to improve their processes and avoid similar issues in the future. Additionally, documenting and sharing the lesson learned can help to establish a culture of learning and continuous improvement within the organization.

In my point of view, because most of the times the lesson learned requires changes in culture and working style of teammembers, it can not be done at once, on the other hand team can't focus on too many sprint goals, keep the improvements in continous tenance and try to improve gradually.


  1. “Antipatterns: The Dark Side of Lessons Learned” by Stefan Sturm and Daniel Rappaport
  2. “NASA’s Lessons Learned System” by George J. Jakabcin and Michael J. Siok
  3. “Lessons Learned at NASA: A Case Study in the Design of a Lessons Learned Database” by Mark Fox and Dave Mader
  4. Project Management Institute. (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

  5. IBM. (2022). Lessons Learned. Retrieved from https://www.ibm.com/services/process/operations/projects/lessons-learned

  6. Kniberg, H., & Skarin, M. (2013). Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both. InfoQ.

  7. Agile Alliance. (2022). Lessons Learned. Retrieved from https://www.agilealliance.org/glossary/lessons-learned/

  8. Glass, R. L. (2001). Lessons learned–not! IEEE Software, 18(3), 102-104.

  9. “Using Lessons Learned to Improve Project Management” by Alan Zucker


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