How best to use the lessons of the past to influence future projects

We recently celebrated our fortieth anniversary here at Hames Sharley, a well-deserved opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and consider some great projects and relationships built up since William Hames and David Sharley joined forces four decades ago.

But that period of reflection was about more than self-congratulation; it also presented us a chance to investigate ways by which we could learn from our collective experiences to improve our day-to-day operations.

What we discovered were a few ideas that could help any business, regardless of sector, to learn from the past.


Take learning seriously - and record those lessons

Design reviews are a core part of our project methodology. Like any meeting involving several people, they can be costly affairs for the time-poor, but we have discovered that the benefits of such knowledge-sharing exercises greatly outweigh any downsides.

We pride ourselves on allowing all personnel to constructively challenge the output of colleagues and partners. These reviews allow individuals who are not necessarily part of a project team to have input and share their own past experiences to the advantage of the project at hand.

Don’t be afraid to revisit and re-learn

Identify projects that are worthy of returning to regularly for investigation. Presenting on a specific historical project will inevitably draw questions from an audience that will influence changes to create a more thorough and rounded presentation the next time.

Think laterally about your route down memory lane

Don’t just look at ‘hero’ projects that may have been the most profitable or most publicly visible. Chances are it’s a small project that went badly that will offer the best direction for the today’s tasks.

Sharing is caring

Gone are the days when the top executive earned his or her spot at the top of the corporate ladder by knowing more than the people they passed on the way up. It’s a cultural shift that can make some people uncomfortable, but to be recognised as a true thought leader, you must not only reflect upon and learn from your own experiences, but also most effectively disseminate that information to colleagues around you.

Allow flexible learning and try to engage

If a learning initiative appears to have been mandated by boardroom power players, chances are its uptake and impact will be diluted, with employees viewing compulsory attendance as a box-ticking exercise. Try to foster a two-way approach that encourages less-experienced individuals to share their knowledge on a level playing field with the office father figures.

Look forward to future learning opportunities

In the electronic age, we all carefully file documents to myriad servers and clouds… where they gather dust. In the heat of a project deadline it’s easy to ‘file and forget’. Instead, recognise these files may have a purpose in future learning: create a post-completion housekeeping policy of taking pertinent snapshots of files that will save time when you need to revisit them.

 

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