Learning from Experience

By Jon M Quigley

How can we get good judgement (learn)?

Projects are unique, each present distinctive challenges, though these challenges often are constant in theme allowing an extrapolation to other projects.  We can see in projects, functional areas and business processes where this failure of learning costs our organization dearly.  Learning and adapting are hallmarks of good project management and of functioning organizations.  Making mistakes is not a problem as that is how we learn.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

What happens when we do not improve our judgement (learn)?

However, we should not consistently burn our hand on the same stovetop and act surprised. If you find your project or organization making the same set of mistakes, you have a learning problem.  To be sure not all can be known, but if you are learning every day, more is known every day.

“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.” ~ Laurence J. Peter

What are the limits of learning?

It may at times seem like the organization as an entirety is not capable of learning. That is one of the reason we have hyper focused on the learning organization over the past few days. Learning at the organization level is walking a tight rope. Learn something productive and necessary, while not excluding alternatives that may work next time.

“We should be careful to get out of an experience all the wisdom that is in it — not like the cat that sits on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” ~ Mark Twain

Each failure, each success provides us with an opportunity to learn.  If we take and maximize that opportunity (spread throughout the organization) we become stronger as an organization.  We learn more as a group about what works and what does not work. This is helpful for the product, and for the project, but we must pay attention to what is going on and listen to those that have learned lessons that we have not yet learned.  As well as teach lessons to those who have not learned.  Student and teacher are one and the same.

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