Learning from your mistakes is not a weakness, but a sign of strength

I can’t help but reflect on a year that seems to have rapidly disappeared in the past 12 months. Looking back, I have encountered challenges, doubts, laughters and some mistakes. Looking ahead, I am nonetheless endlessly excited…

Let me share some of my projects and challenges that made 2016 special:

Threon’s Annual Teambuilding Event
Organizing the teambuilding event, together with my colleague Sophie Christian, was an unforgettable experience. Sophie and I gave the team a new challenge in a fun and supportive environment. This provided each Team Member with a fresh perspective on how the team works and how they approach challenges at work. Doing so, I think we achieved our main goal: foster a sense of shared purpose and action in our organization.

There were some obstacles, doubts and small mistakes when planning our event but hard work pays off and the result was outstanding. I certainly learned a lot throughout this challenge that I will use in accomplishing my future projects or challenges. 

Sewing Classes
In September I subscribed to follow a sewing course. The first classes were quite overwhelming and thrilling at the same time. I had no idea what a bobbin was or how a sewing machine worked  when I started. With that said, making a piece of clothing that looks like it came from a store, that you can proudly wear in public, is hard work. A couple of months later (and a lot of tears and sweat) I was able to create a dress, a skirt, a blouse and trousers (I still have to finish that last one though!).

A B C it's easy as 1 2 3
Throughout my work, whether it’s creating a skirt, planning an event or client work, I learned lessons and discovered opportunities for improvement. I always try to take time to review my work and document the things I’ve learned. This helped me to discover my strengths and weaknesses. But this wasn’t a straightforward thing to do. First of all reviewing a project is a lot of work and secondly the project is over. So why not just move on? I quickly understood this was a big mistake. Let me tell you why:

I was ready with my skirt. The first thing I wanted to do was to wear it during my next night out and show off my skills to my friends. As soon as I arrived at the restaurant I knew something wasn’t right. My zipper was coming loose. What would follow is absolutely not worth to mention in this article…

I have the feeling it’s a common thing that Project Managers, or whatever role you have within a project, don’t always take time to document lessons learned or even skip the whole process of reviewing the project work due to a lack of time. Sometimes lessons learned are documented, but nothing happens with it. Here are a few reasons why I think avoiding this is probably a big mistake:

  • Lessons learned help to avoid repetitive mistakes and improve performance capabilities. 
  • Lessons learned provide opportunities to innovate and take on more risks. 
  • Documenting lessons learned and reviewing a project does not have to be a complicated process. You can scale the complete review process to suit project size, value and complexity.

Like I said, by documenting lessons learned I discovered both strengths and weaknesses. And you should start to do the same to help your Project Team: On one hand it provides an opportunity to discuss successes during the project and recommendations for others involved in similar future projects. On the other hand it also allows the Project Team to discuss the root causes of problems that occurred and ways to avoid those problems in similar future projects.

Please also note that documenting lessons learned can be done at any point in the project lifecycle. Whether you are in the middle of a task, an activity, a decision or if you have that ‘hey, that could have been done better’ feeling, just document it. Observing others can also be a great source. Whatever the source, these thoughts should be immediately documented to be addressed as part of the more formal project review process.

Documenting lessons learned is one thing, but doing something with it is another thing. The main goal of this process is to continuously improve the way of doing things, the outcome of the project, by using the experience gained from one project to benefit future projects. Although projects may have a well-defined end, the need to manage projects successfully is a constant.  Continuous improvement is an operational and necessary thing.  By saying this, I don’t mean we will eventually get to the point where projects are mistake free.  Mistakes will be made. Always. That’s how things work, especially when you use your lessons learned to innovate. What I'm trying to say here is this: It's about avoiding the types of mistakes that can be avoided, and not repeating the same types of mistakes over and over again.

No one’s immune to failure
Sometimes mistakes lead to failure. At least once in your life, you are going to fail at something. Your hard work will not be able to save you. No matter how much you believe, or how focused you are, or how productive you can be, there are always things that cannot be done. Or that simply cannot be done by you. Failure is sometimes inevitable. And it’s completely ok to fail.
You can learn a lot from failing. That’s why you should also learn to grab failure by the horns and transform it into something tangible, like an opportunity.  Messing up is just another way to learn more about yourself and your abilities. I believe that every person has a personal path, with many doors available to open. Many of those doors won't reveal themselves until you face some misfortune (exciting right?!). Just remember, the first key doesn't always work. And if it doesn't, it is your job to find other ways to open the door…

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