LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

May 2021
Volume 17, Issue 5

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Below find this month’s newsletter, hot off the press!

  • Feature Article: Tips for Turning “20:20 Hindsight” into “20:20 Foresight”

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Note from the Author

What Can We Gain from Lessons Learned?

I used to dread the idea of learning things the “hard way” until I discovered that every situation — even the most unpleasant and problematic — harbors hidden gifts, takeaways, and nuggets of wisdom, including very helpful guidance about how to do things (and how not to do things) in the future.

Woman archeologist diggingThis realization hinted that what I really needed to do was pull out my archeological shovel and pail, sift through the latest project rubble, and discover the insights needed to fix any lingering problems and avoid similar snafus later.

Once I experienced this epiphany, I began to perceive difficulty and disaster in an entirely different way. I saw more clearly that just as in many aspects of life, projects involve trial and error and cause-and-effect relationships.

Those pearls of prudence gained from ongoing “experiments” — our lessons learned — can help our future projects and other endeavors reach far greater levels of success. To enjoy the benefits, however, we must be savvy enough to look for, evaluate, and apply their teachings.

Sometimes I predict a particular outcome that doesn’t materialize in the way I had intended. But I know I can simply analyze the data, redesign the experiment, and reap the rewards of the embedded lesson in my very next venture. And to be sure that you can take similar advantage of your own lessons learned, I’m sharing my foolproof, time-tested techniques for accelerating the wisdom-gathering process, below.

I hope you enjoy this month’s features, and please be sure to join the ongoing conversations by leaving your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

Can You Pass the Midnight Test?

I like to think that providing value to our colleagues, customers, or clients results, to a large extent, from carefully considering the usual and unusual circumstances or conditions under which people might want — or need — to use what we produce.

Glowing planetsUsual circumstances involve the range of normal or routine modes in which people would consume our offerings. These might occur during the day, in sunny conditions, with access to plenty of help and support in case anything goes awry.

Unusual circumstances, on the other hand, are those abnormal, non-routine, or even extreme circumstances under which people might need to interact with our products, information, systems, or services. Such situations could occur late at night or on weekends, in inclement weather, or in remote locations, for example.

So, when you’re designing and developing your offerings, anticipate a wide range of “circumstances of use.” What does that mean? It means thinking about not only how people would normally use what you create, but also the consequences and ripple effects of your products not working correctly (or at all) in abnormal, emergency, or off-hours situations. Will your users simply be frustrated or delayed, or could they potentially be harmed? For example, consider whether they could risk losing something vital, such as business, property, profitability, clients, customers, credibility, respect, health, safety, or some other vital outcome. To find out...

Comb your “lessons learned” database from your past projects, or research your customer records to determine whether you need to make improvements in any area. If you ensure that your offerings are bug-free and can function properly under a range of possible conditions, you will prevent the aggravating headaches that could cause your customers to head for the door, to an online complaint site, or even to an attorney. This approach would help you design far better routine experiences, while also avoiding the risks of sorely inconveniencing your buyers or users by overlooking the non-routine situations.

Moon at midnightWhether you’re developing a product, a basic how-to guide, or a complex business system, ask yourself: Can it pass the “midnight test”?

Until you can imagine your colleagues, clients, or customers successfully using your product, service, documentation, or system in the middle of the night, in isolated conditions or adverse circumstances, with no live customer support readily available, then it’s simply not ready for prime time!

Feature Article

Tips for Turning 20:20 Hindsight into 20:20 Foresight
by Adele Sommers

Have you ever used or heard the expression, “In hindsight, knowing what we know today, we would surely have done things differently”? That’s usually a good indicator that there were unanticipated events or circumstances that came back to bite, baffle, or haunt the participants of a particular project or undertaking.

Although the situation might have been problematic at the time, the good news is that astute observers can retrospectively extract valuable gems of wisdom from the experience, which they can then use to their greatest advantage going forward!

20:20 Hindsight =
“Lessons Learned”

Man looking backward with 20:20 hindsightWhat are lessons learned? They’re the perfect 20:20 hindsight that we frequently have after completing a project or other type of endeavor.

This hindsight is worth its weight in gold if we can mine its special value — but it’s absolutely worthless if we don’t make use of what it has to offer.

When capturing lessons learned, we want to identify what went well, what didn’t go well, and why. At this point, you might be thinking, “What kind of reason can I give to my team that we should be doing this? It sounds like a bunch of bureaucratic overhead and more things to do. When the project’s over, we’re anxious to move on!”

The value lies in paving the way for future projects, so they will experience fewer headaches and setbacks. You don’t, however, need to wait until the entire project is over. You can capture 20:20 hindsight incrementally throughout the project, but do it no later than very soon after it finishes, while your memories are still fresh.

What Lessons Should You Capture?

For any problems that went largely unresolved, for instance, consider preventative measures that could help people work through or avoid the problems in the future.

Those measures might involve tools to speed up the work, checklists to make sure people don’t skip important steps, and solutions for thorny problems.

Here are some examples:
Clipboard with checklist

  • If quality was a issue because people didn’t do thorough testing, you can create step-by-step checklists to guide people through the testing process next time.
  • If people were stymied by complex document formats, you can try preparing and pre-testing some templates that will be much faster and easier to use next time.

Target with bullseye arrowIf you encountered components that were supposed to work together but didn’t, and someone found a solution or a workaround, you should record that information and make it readily available to help your teams prevent or solve similar dilemmas later.

Lessons learned have many possible uses...

You can tap your repository of lessons learned to help your customer service or technical support personnel solve problems in a just-in-time fashion, for example. If your staff or colleagues often attempt to address complex issues on the fly, or troubleshoot technical glitches quickly over the phone, they’ll need fast access to solutions for similar situations that were previously resolved.

20:20 Foresight = Best Practices

After capturing a series of lessons learned, the next step is to derive what’s called best practices. What is a best practice? It’s a procedure or method that over time has proven itself to be better than any other procedures or methods that you were using to do the same thing. You could say that it’s the very best way that you, your team, or your organization has found to do something.

Woman looking forward with 20:20 foresightWhy do best practices matter? They represent the intellectual assets — the “secret sauce” — that helps an organization remain highly competitive.

It’s ideal to institutionalize best practices so that everyone follows them. You could incorporate them into policies, procedures, and customer support systems, for example.

One idea is to design a best-practice repository that your colleagues can refer to readily. You don’t want that valuable information to be buried deep in a file cabinet that no one knows anything about.

Best practice archives can substantially reduce the negative effects of attrition on the company’s intellectual assets, which can be devastating. When people leave because they quit, retire, are laid off, or were simply temporary workers to begin with, the company’s “brain trust” completely vanishes out the door with them unless their knowledge is being captured and made available to others.

Summary: Tips for Turning Lessons Learned into Best Practices

1) Have a series of lessons-learned meetings with your team, as your project is proceeding — or no later than soon after it’s over. What were the challenges and successful aspects of the project? For example, if you had technical snafus, information gaps, or communication snags, where, when, and how did they occur? On the flip side, what aspects seemed to go really well?

2) Did you develop any useful workarounds or solutions to problems that cropped up during the project? Document the details in a way that will make sense later. For example, if two systems that were supposed to work together didn’t work as expected, and you figured out a resolution, capture that information so it will be understandable to people on future projects.

3) For problems that went unresolved, what preventative measures can you invent today that could help things go more smoothly next time? For instance, if complex formats caused headaches, why not prepare easy-to-use templates for future projects? If testing steps were overlooked, you could create checklists to guide people through the process step by step.

4) Are there any new best practices to derive from this project? Make a note of anything that went so well — and seems so thoroughly “road tested” — that you would want to repeat the positive experience next time.

5) Can you create an easily accessible repository for lessons learned and best practices you have documented? This could consist of a database or spreadsheet residing on an intranet or protected Web site, for example. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective!

In conclusion, by capturing 20:20 hindsight incrementally and turning it into 20:20 foresight, you will achieve far greater long-term success than by blissfully ignoring or forgetting problems, or by simply moving on when the project ends!

Copyright 2021 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

“Guide to Boosting Productivity and Effectiveness”

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Are you looking for a cookbook of great ideas for boosting your staff’s capabilities, eliminating hassles, streamlining procedures, and developing cutting-edge processes?

My Productivity Success Kit offers a compendium of “how-to” techniques for increasing your organizational effectiveness.

This comprehensive special report includes 36 pages of tips, best practices, checklists, and worksheets that will help your business gain a potent competitive advantage!

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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