You've checked off the last few tasks on your to-do list, submitted the final deliverable, and shaken hands with a group of happy stakeholders. Time to congratulate your project team on a job well done and pop the champagne! 

Wait, what do you mean the project's not finished? Record lessons learned?? Groan.  

It can be tough to make time for any retrospective when many urgent new tasks and projects are waiting. And if your team has already moved on to new work, it can be like herding cats to get everyone in the same room again. However, the benefits of recording project management lessons speak for themselves: you can identify best practices for future use and share them with the rest of the company so everyone can learn from others' experiences. Your life gets exponentially easier going forward, and your company becomes more competitive

This article includes a simple how-to guide, along with the downloadable "Project Management Lessons Learned Document" templates at the end, to make the process of recording project takeaways quick and painless. 

The Importance of a Learning Culture

Recording lessons learned is not just a task to be checked off at the end of a project. It's a crucial part of fostering a learning culture within your organization. When teams see the tangible benefits of learning from past projects, they're more likely to embrace continuous improvement and strive for excellence in every project. Creating a learning culture in project management can result in benefits you can appreciate for years. 

Best Practices for Recording Project Management Lessons

Recording lessons learned in project management is a crucial practice that helps in refining project strategies, avoiding repetitive mistakes, and continuously improving team performance. Here are some best practices for effective documentation of project management lessons.

  1. Make it a Regular Practice: Don’t wait until the project's end to document lessons learned. Make it an ongoing practice throughout the project lifecycle. This ensures that insights are captured when they're fresh and most relevant.
  2. Encourage Open Communication: Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their successes and failures. Open communication leads to more comprehensive and honest insights.
  3. Be Objective: When documenting lessons, focus on the situation and the outcome, not on individuals. This helps prevent the process from becoming personal and encourages objective analysis.
  4. Categorize Lessons Learned: Organize lessons into project planning, risk management, or communication categories. This makes it easier to reference and apply the lessons in future projects.
  5. Use a Standardized Template: A consistent format ensures that all necessary information is captured. This should include the situation description, lessons learned, and recommendations for future projects.
  6. Review and Apply Lessons: Regularly review and incorporate the documented lessons into your project management practices. This ensures that the team benefits from past experiences and continuously improves.

Remember, the goal of recording project management lessons is to build a knowledge base that contributes to the success of future projects.

How To Identify & Record Project Management Lessons Learned

1. Don’t save it all for the end of the project. 

Attach quick review meetings to project milestones to support continuous learning. Periodic reviews are known to have a positive impact on team motivation, since they'll directly benefit from the lessons learned instead of altruistically passing on tips to other teams. This also means you'll get better quality insights, as people aren't trying to remember what happened weeks or months ago. Plus, it's easy to gather everyone while the project is still active. (This is especially true with contract workers or consultants, who typically scatter once a project ends.) The importance of recording project management lessons will become clear as we work through the rest of the steps.

2. Focus on why and how. 

A lessons learned document isn’t simply a report or description of the project’s results. Go deeper: what problems did you encounter and how did you solve them? What cause-effect relationships did you notice? What insights did you pick up into how work processes could be improved? 

3. Emphasize successes.     

Which strategies and procedures contributed to success? Knowing what worked well is just as helpful as knowing what didn't! Answer these questions: 

  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we stop doing?
  • What should we keep doing? 
  • What's still causing us trouble?       

4. Evaluate each stage of the project. 

If you're stumped on where to start, discuss these aspects of the project with your team to get the conversation going and make sure you hit all the important points:

  • Project planning
  • Defining scope & requirements
  • Resource and budget management
  • Risk management
  • Reporting
  • Testing/Revisions
  • Stakeholder communication
  • Team communication
  • Quality of meetings
  • Quality of final project outcome

5. Find consensus. 

Your whole team should agree on the lessons learned, and everyone should contribute. The people personally involved in the work are the ones with the insights you need!

6. Make takeaways actionable and widely applicable. 

Once you’ve collected lessons learned with your internal team, you need to repackage them for general use and apply them to your future work. They shouldn't be so specific that they don't pertain to new projects, or so generic that they confuse people. Create a preliminary plan: what would improvements look like, and who would be responsible for making them happen?

7. Make your conclusions accessible. 

Wouldn't it be a shame to reflect and record lessons learned only to have your insights lost or forgotten? Set up a knowledge base or an intranet where every team can store their lessons learned and access advice from other teams. Learning how to write a project management report will also be beneficial to document all of the project's details and identify potential changes to implement in your next project. Additionally, practicing how to document project management lessons learned is a skill that your entire team will benefit from, which will benefit your organization overall.

The Long-Term Impact of Recording Lessons Learned in Project Management

Recording lessons learned in project management can profoundly impact an organization's efficiency, productivity, and success. Here's how:

  1. Continuous Improvement: Documenting lessons learned fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement. It helps teams to identify what worked well and what needs to be improved, leading to better project outcomes over time.
  2. Knowledge Sharing: Lessons learned serve as a valuable knowledge base. They provide insights and guidance for future projects, ensuring teams don't repeat past mistakes and capitalize on proven strategies.
  3. Enhanced Decision-Making: With a historical record of lessons learned, project managers can make more informed decisions. They can predict potential risks, foresee challenges, and devise effective solutions, improving the quality of decision-making.
  4. Increased Efficiency: Over time, applying lessons learned can streamline project processes, reduce waste, and increase efficiency. Teams become more adept at managing time, resources, and scope, leading to more successful projects.
  5. Improved Team Morale: When teams see their experiences are valued and used to improve future projects, morale and motivation can be boosted. It cultivates an environment of growth and learning, enhancing team satisfaction and retention.

Recording lessons learned in project management is a strategic investment that pays dividends in the form of improved project outcomes, knowledge sharing, and organizational growth in the long run.


Recording lessons learned in project management is a strategic activity that reaps long-term benefits. It fosters continuous improvement, enhances decision-making, and boosts team morale. It provides a treasure trove of insights for future projects, ensuring teams evolve and grow from every project experience. Utilizing the provided templates can further streamline this process, making it a standardized part of your project lifecycle. Remember, the wisdom acquired from past projects is a powerful tool for future success. So, keep sharing your insights and tips, and contribute to the collective learning and growth of the project management community.

Use these ready-to-use templates to record and share your team's most helpful project tips:

Download template #1: Project Management Lessons Learned - Periodic Milestone Review
Download template #2: Project Management Lessons Learned - Final Review

What are your tips for better project management? 

We know you've picked up some project management wisdom along the way, so share your tips for recording lessons learned with your fellow readers in the comments!

Read Next:
The Ultimate Guide to Project Management
The 3-Step Guide to Choosing a Project Management Methodology
4 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders

Harvesting Project Knowledge,,,