Learning Histories LO4315

Jeff Conklin (conklin@cmsi.com)
Mon, 18 Dec 95 16:26:20 CST

In LO3744 Beth Clark writes:

> The concept of creating, archiving, and using learning histories as part
> of the research and engineering function is an old one. In fact, it is
> considered 'good engineering practice' to create reports documenting
> 'lesson learned' from experiments and analysis. Usually, these reports
> are given unique identifiers to facilitate search. Following 'good
> engineering practice' these reports are archived. Before desktop
> computing, reports were circulated among the engineering staff and
> archived in file drawers. Now, they are circulated via e-mail and stored
> on servers. These reports together with engineering specifications,
> design documentation, test results, etc. form the 'project history,' and
> usually maintained by a configuration management function within the
> engineering department. This sort of history is useful for a number of
> reasons, including avoiding making the same mistakes again and defending
> yourself from litigation.

I agree that such learning histories could be very useful for the
organization as a whole to remember and learn from, but I am
skeptical that it really happens, despite it's being "good
engineering practice". I am even more skeptical that these archives
are ever used (i.e. that they serve as more than "write-only"

Have you, Beth, or has anyone seen organizations in which the
creation of learning histories (or just lessons learned reports)
actually happens?

Has anyone seen organizations in which such histories (or reports)
are accessed and used?

If so, what can you say about the organisation that could explain how it
manages to do this? Is it an engineering culture in which "they've always
done it this way?" Is there a manager who just believes in the importance
of this kind of documentation and pushes it? What are the incentives to
take time to create this kind of documentation?

Jeff Conklin,  Chief Scientist,  Corporate Memory Systems, Inc.
11824 Jollyville Road, Suite 101,  Austin, Texas  78759
512 918/8000 Voice                512 918/9600 Fax 
Email: conklin@cmsi.com           WWW: http://www.cmsi.com/info