Learning from mistakes

There are several super Project Managers writing blogs that share their observations, experiences, and lessons learned. One I have found interesting and insightful is from Scott Berkun—particularly his essays that tend to include more detail and instructions than his blog posts. Scott is the author of two books on Project Management: Making things happen (an Amazon editor’s best pick for 2007) and The Myths of Innovation.

Scott was a manager at Microsoft from 1994-2003. He currently works as a writer and public speaker. He has taught at the University of Washington, blogs for Harvard Business, and has appeared as an innovation expert on CNBC and MSNBC.

In his essay on Learning from Mistakes, Scott tells us:

  • You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it
  • To learn from mistakes, you must:
    • Put yourself in situation where you can make interesting mistakes
    • Have the self confidence to admit them
    • Be courageous about making changes
  • Scott then talk in detail about four kinds of mistakes:
    • Stupid
    • Simple—avoidable but your sequence of decisions made it inevitable
    • Involved—understandable but require significant effort to prevent
    • Complex—multiple causes, difficult to avoid

I recommend that you read Scott’s entire nine page essay. There is real value here for project managers, especially Scott’s questions to ask when trying to understand what happened on your project and his checklist for learning from mistakes.

Please share your thoughts and comments.

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