Whilst presenting an APMP Foundation Level training course to a group before Christmas, I found myself getting frustrated by the negative spin that the examiners take on the “Learning review” process. What’s the point, according to the syllabus, of a lessons learnt process? It’s to “recognize systemic process issues and drive their resolution”; the aim is “to do better next time”.
It struck me that whoever developed this section of APMP’s competency framework must have had some pretty bad personal experiences running proposals. If the learning review is so negative – working from the assumption that so much went on that was wrong, that so many things need to be corrected – then it’s no wonder that it can be hard to secure people’s open, frank participation in the process. The working assumption underlying the “white review” would appear to be that the proposal team has just endured a soul-destroying journey into the valley of despair – and the inevitable risk is that those who do participate in the learning process will approach the exercise feeling defensive, confrontational and negative.
No, a learning review should be framed in a positive way. Look to celebrate what went well on the bid – those things you’d do again; the things that worked; the things you’d want other teams to try on their next proposal effort. And then – without attributing blame – look at what the team would have done differently (with the benefit of hindsight, even), or would want to approach in a different way the next time around. After all, even the most successful bids aren’t all plain sailing – and so many unsuccessful teams do so much cool stuff without quite getting across the finishing line in first place.