The Power of “Lessons Learned” for a Growth Mindset in 2021

January 16, 2021 by FlexPro

I’m sure we’re all breathing a collective sigh of relief now that 2020 is finally over. Regardless of what your resolutions or goals were for last year, I don’t think many of us could have predicted what 2020 had in store for us. It was a year full of challenges and very few of us were left untouched – personally or professionally. I think most newsletters Rose and I wrote last year spoke of “the new normal” in the way we now live and do business.

While I know that flipping the calendar to a new year is not like waving a magic wand, I’m optimistic that things will get better. If nothing else the past year has shown me how quickly things can change. So many people were forced to adapt to circumstances beyond their control, at literally a moment’s notice. When I reflect back on 2020, I’d like to think of what I learned, the good and the bad, and how I can use that knowledge going forward. 

A number of years ago Rose wrote about “lessons learned” or an “after-action review”, a concept first adapted by the military to analyze the end of a mission. In project management, The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines “Lessons Learned” as: “The learning gained from the process of performing the project. Formally conducted “lessons learned” sessions are traditionally held during project close-out, near the completion of the project. However, “lessons learned” may be identified and documented at any point during the project’s life cycle.

The purpose of documenting “lessons learned” is to share and use knowledge derived from experience to:

    • Promote the recurrence of desirable outcomes
    • Preclude the recurrence of undesirable outcomes

So much of what occurred in 2020 was unprecedented, and as a PM I feel it’s extremely important for my team and I to have a “year in review” type of conversation. COVID-19 forced us all into learning new practices on the fly. Changing and adapting was the unending challenge of 2020 and I’m so proud to work with a team of people who continued to rise above each challenge presented. As 2021 begins, now is the time to have an after-action review of what we learned from last year. It can be a tremendous aid in all phases of a new project helping to provide direction based on previous project experiences. Future failures can be avoided by using these lessons. While it is often incorrectly assumed that the “lessons learned” process is only focused on the problems, it’s also a time for reflecting and documenting the successes. 

For me, 2020 was more about what I gained rather than what I lost. I’m incredibly thankful for my family and I are healthy. The canceled vacations or concerts we would have looked forward to throughout the year were replaced with unrushed dinners with family and Zoom happy hours with friends. Online shopping, takeout, binge-watching and finally using the treadmill in the basement replaced eating out, going to the gym and restaurants. We adapted and I am thankful every day that we’re all okay. 2020 taught us so much about what we’re truly capable of and I am awed by the strength and resiliency we have all shown. 

2021 may be just as challenging as 2020 in many ways, but I’m hoping the “lessons learned” from the difficult past year will help show us the way. Rose and I wish you and your families a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

What were your biggest “Lessons Learned” from 2020?  


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