When I was designing 'for real', I was never entirely on my own like in school. Getting all the drawing done in time for final printing was just one objective. The client needed to be kept in the loop. The consulting engineers needed drawing updates in time to complete their work. And they needed them far enough in advance for me to make sure their work was coordinated with everything else. Codes. Budgets. Specs. Having all these other expectations encouraged me to find a process.
That's where Lessons Learned comes in.
One of my flaws or advantages is that I can see how to improve things without really trying. It just happens. It is maddening to be on deadline and find yourself planning how to save time and effort "next time". That's the stuff of all-nighters. On the other hand when 'next time' comes around, I have a better plan.
I have to admit that I can't remember all the ideas that I get for improving things. So Lessons Learned is a way of filing those ideas and experiences away for next time in a way that will be easy to implement - next time.
There could be an even more effective way of keeping your ideas and experiences handy, but this is what worked for us. There was quite literally a 'Lessons Learned' file for each client and consultant. More about that below.
The main technique for capturing Lessons Learned was to embed the information in our filing system. Here's how that looked. (See screenshot on right.)
The "0 Master Project Folder Template" was the starting point for each new project. The zero in the name assured its first place in the list of projects - easy to find. You simply copied the folder and renamed it for each new project. This gave you not only the latest thinking on how information should be filed, but also all the latest templates, checklists, and Unique Methods 'flow charts' to use on the project.
For instance "AgendaMinutesNotes" contained a formatted template for use in making your first agenda. This template contained our knowledge about Agendas in the form of a checklist. Copy it. Rename it by adding the date in YYYYMMDD after the "Agenda" title. And you were ready to go. The point is that you didn't have to look for this information. It was right where you needed it.
It was just as easy to make an improvement. Just modify the master document in the master project file folder. This method for embedding our knowledge covered all aspects of project work.
The same approach was used for Business Development and Admin/Finance so that, whatever you were working on, the firm's knowledge about that topic was right there in the folder you were using.
To some degree everyone does this kind of thing. In order for it to build up to something worthwhile, it has to be easy to retrieve. Even better is having it be noticeable frequently in the normal course of events.
Do you have a solution for capturing your knowledge and experience to share?
Aside to Wolnitzek Architects alums who see this:
Yes, I know that this isn't exactly the system that we had.
But it should have been.