Enhancing quality of lessons learned : evaluating knowledge management practices in project management

T.K.M. Lo, Sik Wah Fong

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Lessons learned (LL), or knowledge obtained from experiences, are keys to effective learning in project-oriented organizations, especially in the construction industry. Many public or private organizations have developed information technology systems for collecting, sharing and maintaining lessons learned as a crucial element of their knowledge management policies. For efficient knowledge sharing and dissemination, the contents of the learned lessons are usually codified into explicit and structured knowledge in textual form like cases, reports, research studies, best practices or guidelines that are accessible to their staff for reference. While issues about data and information quality have been widely investigated, there is little research on the quality of the content of knowledge per se. Evaluation of lessons learned systems in terms of knowledge quality has not been conducted, implying a lack of detailed criteria for effective codification of knowledge, which is one of the key factors for successful knowledge management. This paper offers a brief overview of LL followed by discussion on the quality dimensions of knowledge with a view to answering the question: “What kinds of lessons are more effective in terms of learning and transferring knowledge?” This is related to the way of evaluating LL, together with suggestions on how to apply these quality dimensions in the perspectives of context and content. For example, many lessons learned programs focus on the 'what' and 'how' aspects but do not adequately address the 'why' perspective. Knowing the reasons why past practices succeeded or failed is essential for project team members in order to avoid reinventing the wheel and to achieve continuous improvement. Project team members can reach informed decisions not just by blindly following rules and decisions but also by reflecting on the reasons why their predecessors have made the choices and taken the actions specified in the lessons learned. A quality lesson learned should state the rationales behind the decisions in the content. This study contributes to project management research by showing the importance of good contextual knowledge and content in lessons learned on decision-making. The “Failure Knowledge Database”, a knowledge database of failure cases, is used as an example for illustration.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventCIB World Congress -
Duration: 1 Jan 2010 → …


ConferenceCIB World Congress
Period1/01/10 → …


  • Knowledge management
  • Lessons learned
  • Failure
  • Quality
  • Failure knowledge database


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