The suggestions, observations and ideas we capture at retrospectives are not Lessons Learned. That would imply we have already learned from them and will not make that mistake again. Instead, they are Lessons-to-be-Learned which is subtly different but stresses the most important part, which is we now need to learn something.
Learning involves several steps. David Kolb, an educational theorist, describes a 4-step learning process:
- Concrete Experiences (What we already know)
- Observation and Reflection (What our retrospectives help us identify)
- Abstract Conceptualization (Thinking about the problems and designing potential solutions)
- Active Experimentation (Trying something new)
It is easy to confuse the retrospective actions of Observation and Reflection (Stage 2) as gathering lessons learned. However, this is not the case, instead it is just one step in the process. We then need to determine a solution (Stage 3) and run experiments to learn from them (Stage 4). Only then might we actually learn something.
To remind us that simply gathering ideas and suggestions for improvements is not the same as learning, I suggest we stop using the term “Lessons Learned” and instead use “Lessons to be learned”.