News & Insights

Real-Time Lessons Learned Closes Performance Gaps and Creates Immediate Value

Aug 10, 2016

Author:  Brad Farrow

In project execution, an immediate opportunity exists to close performance gaps and create immediate value through application of Real-Time Lessons Learned.

We frequently work within large capital projects and plant turnaround teams as performance experts. Our position offers many unique insights and value-added opportunities through planning and into the execution phase. In many cases, value is captured with RLG’s proprietary Project Excellence (Px™), Theoretical Maximum Performance (TMP™), Operating Rhythm™ (OR), and FAIR™ model tools. 

It’s not uncommon to encounter traditional lessons-learned processes. These are both industry standard and client specific, and typically take an after-the-fact approach to analyzing performance. Tools and processes such as After Action Reviews (AARs), Incident Reports, Failure Analyses and Variance Reporting are done to check-the-box or address a specific performance failure or event. RLG Performance Experts significantly enhance these processes through effective facilitation and process rigor, building involvement and follow-through.

Yet, even with peak effectiveness, traditional lessons-learned processes fail to close performance gaps and capture immediate value. The reason is three-fold:

1. They look at negative deviations

That is, they address issues, errors, problems or accidents. Attention stays focused on returning performance to the baseline or expected practice. This seldom identifies opportunities to enhance performance above baseline, closer to what we call “theoretical maximum” performance.

2. They ignore most of the activity

Instead of opening the conversation to all activity lines in a plan to pursue performance enhancement opportunities, they stay focused on variances or events. This misses the many small and sometimes large improvement ideas.

3. They occur too late to be actionable

Typical AARs occur as post-mortems, once the project has concluded and often after the project team has started winding down. This is far too late to take action to improve performance on this event, and too late to capture specific ideas on each line item in the activity plan. Furthermore, the identified actions are often filed away and fail to result in effective changes to procedures, processes, plans and behaviours during the next project event or even the next day!

We propose a different approach to capture a step change in performance. While the AAR will always remain an important component of the project planning and execution cycle, a Real-Time Lessons Learned (RTLL) process is also needed. This will ensure both problems and innovations are identified, in real time, and applied immediately on the same project.   

“Real-Time Lessons Learned ensures both problems and innovations are identified, in real time, and applied immediately on the same project.”

Real-Time Lessons Learned in Action

Real-Time Lessons Learned are unique and different in-kind to almost all standard lessons learned, and AAR review processes. Whereas standard practices are essentially designed to identify problems and issues, Real-Time Lessons Learned are intended to track and assess the actual execution versus original plan, line-by-line, within 12 hours of the activity event. 

In every 8 (10 or 12) hour shift during a Capital Project or Turnaround there is finite, and specific plan, that has been vetted, designed and agreed to during our SQR and TMP™ processes. At the end of every shift, a simple, accurate, and substantive assessment of what happened relative to plan occurs. Opportunities to make immediate adjustments to improve performance and add value are captured and enacted.

Determine: did our execution match our 8 hour (12 hour, last shift, etc.) plan?

1. Ask questions line by line. We use a rigorously tested set of questions to thoroughly guide the information gathering and gain effective involvement.

2. Capture useful information. We ensure:
  • notes are taken that describe lessons learned and identified actions are captured for the next planning sessions
  • learnings that can be applied by the next shift(s), or for other teams or disciplines, are identified, clearly described, and delivered to the appropriate teams/leader/shifts
  • notes are collected and filed centrally, daily, thereby making an extremely useful record for review after the project
3. Confirm accountability for follow-through. We guide the process to:
  • create and communicate the process for Real-Time Lessons Learned
  • capture the 3W’s: Who takes What action by When is captured...and always completed
  • complete documentation, and project change orders if needed, are undertaken according to the established process.   

When RLG Performance Experts are on hand to establish a Real-Time Lessons Learned process, and to debrief shifts and teams as their work is completed, the organization will close performance gaps and capture immediate value. They will capture and act on Real-Time Lesson Learned, creating a dynamic, responsive and action oriented lesson learned culture, that will deliver “Real Time Results.”

For more information on this or any other RLG performance tool, or to talk about your specific issue, please contact us. We’d be happy to talk or help.