There has been a lot of talk in the project management blogosphere lately focussing on project failure and how it can actually lead to success. However, one of the key points I have taken away from all these blogs is that failure only contributes to future success if you learn from the mistakes you made the first time. Failure is obviously no good if you continue to make the same mistakes over and over, without any change to your practices in light of what the failure is showing you.

However, there are also a lot of blogs out there expressing frustration at the fact that many organisations don’t learn from their mistakes and failures, because they haven’t properly discussed and documented the failure in order to learn from it in the future. On such article from Duncan Haughey on the Project Smart website has highlighted a very simple process to help organisations learn from their past mistakes.

Whilst much of Duncan Haughey’s suggested process really focuses on developing a mind-set within the organisation and facilitating discussion and awareness of past mistakes, a lot of it also relies on good documentation and storage of the past mistakes. This can then enable the development of an easily searchable database of ‘lessons learned’ that can be accessed by people from all over the organisation to prevent the same mistakes being made on future projects.

One way to start developing this database is to have all your project information stored in a central place that is accessible to the entire organisation, such as a dedicated project management software package like IPM. With IPM, you have all the site diaries, meeting minutes, issues and risks from each of your projects in the one database, which all hold valuable data when identifying where mistakes have been made on the project. The Issues register in IPM is also a good place to record your database of lessons learned as it is central, and easily searchable.

Failure is sometimes unavoidable when trying to accomplish your project goals, but if you can take that failure and learn from it, or help others in your organisation learn from it, then the failure becomes more valuable and can help you succeed next time.