If you want better results from your team and your work, you should regularly stop to think about what was learned at the end of each project. This will get you thinking about what’s working well and what can improve.
To help you do this, we’ve created a lessons learned template for Excel. At the end of each project, fill out this worksheet and see how a little bit of reflection can help you achieve better results at work!
What Is a Lessons Learned Template?
A lessons learned template is a tool that helps project teams document the knowledge obtained from executing a project. That knowledge comprises positive and negative experiences that occurred throughout the project. This free lessons learned template for Excel categorizes these experiences into wins and issues.
A win is something that happened in your project that led to a positive outcome and should be included in your lessons learned Excel template. Perhaps you used a new collaborative project management software to organize this project and your team was able to finish their work much faster than usual. This would be considered a win because there was a positive outcome.
Wins should be shared with other people in your organization who might benefit from your learnings. If the new project management software helped your team, then it’ll likely help others!
An issue is something that happened in your project that led to a negative outcome. Maybe you needed the IT team for this project but they were busy, which delayed your start date. This is considered an issue because it negatively impacted your work.
Issues should also be included in your lessons learned template and discussed with project stakeholders so that changes can be made to avoid the same problem in the future. In this example, you could talk to management about hiring more IT staff so you don’t have to wait for help to become available.
When Should You Use a Lessons Learned Template?
A lessons learned template should be used at the end of the project closure phase. That’s the time when project management teams can get the most information, as they can look back at the project in retrospect. The lessons learned template applies to any project, regardless of its size or complexity, and can even be used for gap analysis or root cause analysis.
Some project managers might use a lessons learned report more often such as at the end of each project stage or whenever a project milestone is achieved. This creates a continuous improvement atmosphere that helps ensure project success, typically used in lean project management, kanban and other methodologies.
How to Use this Free Lessons Learned Template for Excel
This lessons learned template is intended to be used whenever the project team reaches a project milestone. You can either use it at a stopping point in your project to look at one specific section of work or wait until project completion to look at the entire project. This depends on how long and how complex your project is, but most people use this document once at the end of the project.
Start by downloading the lessons learned Excel template. The first section you should fill out is the project information section.
1. The Project Information Section
In this section, you’ll add a little bit of information about the project, so that if this document is shared, other stakeholders understand what this is in reference to. This is also helpful so that when you look back at this document later, you remember which project it was for.
- Today’s date: Enter today’s date
- Project name: Give your project a name, so it can be quickly identified
- Project manager: Enter the name of the person overseeing the project. This could be a proper project manager or any staff member who is the owner of the work
- Notes: This field is for you to add any relevant information you’d like
- Ideas: Client name, stakeholders, project summary, budget, etc.
2. Recording Your Lessons Learned
This is where you’ll fill out the things that you learned during your project. In this Excel lessons learned template, we’ve added three examples of “lessons learned” so that you can see exactly what should go in each field. Let’s break it down in detail below:
- WIN or ISSUE: Choose either WIN or ISSUE to classify the lesson. A win is something positive that happened, and an issue is something negative that happened.
- Describe what happened: Use this field to give a detailed description of the lesson you learned.
- What was the impact?: Here, you’ll describe the positive or negative result and the impact there may have been. For a win, write about the positive outcome that occurred. For an issue, write about the negative consequences you experienced due to the problem.
3. Assess the Future Impact and Plan Action Items
Here you can further explain the impact of the wins and issues and the following action items that need to be executed afterward.
- How does this change future projects?: In this field, record your thoughts on how this lesson might impact future work. Think about how other people in your organization might benefit from learning this lesson.
- Action items: Add the actionable steps that’ll be taken to address your win or issue. Every row should have an action item, even if it’s as simple as “monitor to see if it happens again.” This is the most important part of the template because you’re outlining the steps you’ll take to improve.
What Other Project Management Templates Can Help with Project Closure?
ProjectManager is an award-winning software, but it’s also a valuable resource on all things project management. Our website has training videos, blogs, guides and free project management templates. Here are a few related to our free lessons learned template.
This project closure template helps you report on the project deliverables, goals, objectives and milestones that were achieved. In addition, it lets you list any project management documentation that should be reviewed by stakeholders at the project closure.
This punch list template is a great tool for the project closure phase. It’s a task list that’s made from all the activities that are missing and need to be executed before the project closure can be finalized.
While the lessons learned is an important project management report, it’s designed for the project closure phase. Before that, you’ll need to constantly update the stakeholders on the project’s progress. This progress report template is ideal for this.
Why Use This Lessons Learned Template?
There’s a famous quote that says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.” This rings true in the workplace where it’s common to see teams doing things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Teams then wonder why the outcome wasn’t better.
Advantages of Using a Lessons Learned Template for Excel
This lessons learned template is a great way to document the insights you learned so you don’t repeat mistakes, especially when used in tandem with reporting software. This practice also helps you make changes to processes, teams and systems to ensure future projects are more successful than the last.
Lessons learned templates are a great source of information when planning a project. It’s important that your organization uses them so there are qualitative and quantitative background data to analyze whenever a new project or program will be launched.
Disadvantages of Using a Lessons Learned Template for Excel
As noted, a lessons learned template is helpful during the project closure phase. However, it serves a single purpose, which is merely documenting wins and losses. On top of that, it’s an Excel template, so it’s a static document that’s time-consuming to update and can be hard to share. Multiple copies can cause confusion among your team.
If you plan on managing projects, you should use project management software that lets you track tasks, costs and collaborate with your team in real-time. ProjectManager allows you to do that and more with online Gantt charts, kanban boards, project calendars and dashboards. With ProjectManager, you can use your lessons learned template to plan new projects.
Turn Your Lessons Learned Template into an Action Plan with ProjectManager
If you find this template helpful, then you’ll also love our tools. Teams all over the world use our project management software to stay organized and improve productivity. To catch the wins and issues, you have to monitor and track your progress as it occurs, something that ProjectManager does with our real-time dashboards. You get instant feedback about the progress of your projects so you don’t have to wait until the end to learn valuable lessons.
The dashboard is a high-level view of the project, but often issues are simmering below the surface and don’t appear until they’re a problem. ProjectManager gives users the project tracking tools to dig deep with reporting features that can filter data to get only the information they want. These reports are easy to share and archive on the software, which has unlimited file storage.
The project team collects what works and what isn’t working on the front lines. ProjectManager offers a collaborative platform that gives everyone the tools to comment at the task level, including attaching files and images to document wins and issues. As each comment is added, relevant members are notified by email. If you need to bring in another team member, simply tag them. It’s that easy.
Related Lessons Learned Content
ProjectManager is award-winning software, but it’s also a valuable resource on all things project management. Our website has training videos, blogs, guides and more that explain every phase, technique and method in managing a project. Here are a few related to our free lessons learned template.
- What Is Post-Implementation Review in Project Management?
- Five Steps to Project Closure (Checklist Included)
- Why Projects Fail
ProjectManager is a way to learn from the lessons of your past projects and keep historical data close at hand, but it’s so much more. Plan, monitor and report on every phase of your project and gather lessons learned. Sign up here to try it free for 30 days.