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Improving lessons learnt outcomes in multi-phase project environments

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posted on 02.03.2011, 09:16 by Paul A. Fuller
The capture and beneficial application of learning from past experiences in projects has been an area of interest and debate for many years. The implementation of lessons learnt is commonly acknowledged as difficult. Existing studies point to the deficiencies in current practice but few propose practical approaches to improve the situation. A key barrier to learning in projects is the time-critical nature of most projects which makes the creation of time and space to learn and then apply the resultant learning problematic. Other inhibitors include the variety and temporality of project teams, the geographical spread of many projects and client pressures to reduce costs. The aim of this research was to improve project learning processes in multi-phase project environments through the identification and application of relevant organizational learning and knowledge management theories. The research was based on a single company longitudinal case study in an infrastructure support services organization. An event-based approach to project lessons was developed which focuses on benefits realisation and measurement. The processes employed overcome some of the key barriers to the effective capture of lessons learnt and their subsequent implementation i.e. shortage of time, different learning styles of individuals, lack of effective capture mechanisms, poor articulation of benefits realisation, lack of management sponsorship. A model was also developed which acts as a multi-faceted lens which aids the understanding of the dynamics of project-based learning. The model was tested through a series of workshops. In order to assist the roll-out of the new approach across the case study organisation and outline implementation guide that has been developed. The approach can also be promoted externally to improve project management practice across the wider construction industry. In addition, the study also revealed that event-based enactment of complex/abstract theories can be used as a tool to create improved praxis by overcoming the need to explain the theories to the actors involved. The main contribution to research is the development of a new approach which extends existing theory in the areas of learning, knowledge management and boundary objects in multi-phase project contexts. It achieves this through the synergistic use of the theories employed which support the development of reflective practitioners with the skills to engender a ‘learning how to learn’ culture within project-based environments. Further testing of ongoing benefits monitoring and establishing causality is needed. Overall, the methodology developed is highly adaptable and can be used by others in different organizational contexts to improve organizational learning, business performance, client satisfaction and wider stakeholder outcomes.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

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  • Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Engineering (CICE)


© Paul Anthony Fuller

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A dissertation thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree Doctor of Engineering (EngD), at Loughborough University.



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