Last edited 07 May 2021

Lessons learned report for building design and construction

A lessons learned report (sometimes referred to as an ‘assessment and lessons learned report’ or ‘lessons identified report’) is an assessment of lessons that can be learned from a project that could be applied to other projects. This is particularly useful to clients who are regular developers and may run a continuous improvement programme, and may be a requirement of some funding organisations.

A lessons learned report may be prepared as part of a post project review, undertaken during the defects liability period. The purpose of a post project review is to look at the effectiveness and efficiency of the project delivery process. The lessons learned report focuses more specifically on how things could be done differently in the future.

It might identify:

  • Mistakes that could be avoided in the future.
  • Successful strategies that might be adopted in the future.
  • Procedures or resources that could be improved.

It may be prepared by an in-house team, by members of the consultant team or by independent client advisers. If such services were not a requirement of original appointments then new appointments or re-appointments may be necessary.

Ideally, the requirement for a lessons learned report should be included in tender documentation so that members of the project team are contractually obliged to provide the necessary information and input to the report. They may be required to provide information as the project progresses (such as key performance indicators, which might require information from sub-contractors) or to maintain up to date lessons learned logs.

It is important to agree:

  • The purpose of the report (who is it for and how they will use it).
  • The scope of the study required.
  • The reporting procedures and timescale for the study.
  • The stakeholders that will be involved.
  • The techniques that will be used.
  • The information that is available.

The report might include an assessment of the project, or simply focus on the lessons that can be carried forward. Assessments may be both qualitative (based on research, interviews and workshops) and quantitative (such as key performance indicators or benchmarking assessments).

Qualitative assessments could include:

However, it is important that it does not simply become a time-consuming paper exercise. Nor should it be a PR exercise - an opportunity to pat each other on the back and claim every aspect of the project was successful. Only genuinely important aspects of the project should be assessed, and only viable and worthwhile lessons proposed for adoption.

The report might include:

Aspects of the project that might be assessed could include:

For each lesson, the report might describe:

  • What went wrong / right.
  • Why it went wrong / right.
  • Seriousness, ie is it worth avoiding / replicating in the future.
  • If so, how can this be done.

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