Success can be simple… it just depends on how you define it. What’s cool about that is you get to define it!
One of the best ways to attain it, once defined, is to gain leverage. In business, the process of reflection is an excellent ‘leverage play.’ Reflection allows us to move further, faster, without repeating the mistakes that hold us back.
In particular, the reflection tool I have for you here is one that I not only use in my businesses but with many of my clients in their businesses as well. So I’ve dubbed that reflection tool Lessons Learned.
The intention behind Lessons Learned is straightforward… learn from the past in order to create a better, more predictable, and sustainable future.
Then read on as I share how to leverage it in your business… and your life!
Getting Started With Lessons Learned
First, you must commit to not only trying this on but seeing it through. A half-assed effort won’t do here.
Are you game so far? If so, please continue.
In a previous article on reflection, I covered a bit more on what Lessons Learned is and when you should use it. Haven’t read it yet? I highly… highly suggest you do that now.
Reflection: What Is It and Why Should You Care
OK… you all set? Did you read it?
So here is what I suggest next. Carve out an uninterrupted block of time… as little as an hour, yet no more than a half-day to complete this exercise. Don’t allow interruptions. Get out of the office if needed.
And, don’t forget to include your team here; they likely will see things through a slightly different lens than you. That’s valuable insight you shouldn’t pass on.
To make explaining how to conduct a proper Lessons Learned exercise easier, I will use a ‘Time Basis’ example… reflecting on company performance over the past quarter.
Part I: Brainstorming "Breakthroughs"
Travel backward through the past quarter and jot down all of the significant and positive successes that transpired for your business during that period.
Some examples of “Breakthroughs” are:
Don’t get too granular here… you are just brainstorming. Look for big… chunky… significant items. Stay out of the minutia!
Brainstorming in action!
Part II: Brainstorming "Breakdowns"
Travel backward through the past quarter and jot down all of the things that did not go so well for you and your business during that period. Some examples of “Breakdowns” are:
No blame game… no pity parties… no fighting! Just get it all out on the table.
Be sure to stay out of the weeds here… only log big… chunky… significant items.
Part III: Celebration and Analysis
OK… your brainstorming is complete; Time to rip into what showed up!
Celebrate your successes!
Reflect on what you did to create these breakthroughs. Nothing happens by accident.
Look for themes and patterns as success leaves clues. Then, consider integrating these success patterns into other initiatives across your business.
Schedule separate breakout sessions as needed with necessary parties to do so.
This is what is meant when we say do more of what is working!
Might I also suggest spending an extra moment in the space of gratitude for all the wonderful breakthroughs you have manifested… gratitude is one of the most potent magnetic sources available… leverage it!
Here’s the fun part! This is where the best growth usually stems from!
1. Look For Patterns - The Affinity Diagram
I am partial (because of my formal education and project management experience) to using an Affinity Diagram tool here. All it is essentially is a way of grouping your items. Doing this will certainly move this process along faster and more efficiently.
Informally, group your related breakdowns. Doing so will cause certain items to bubble up to the top of the list. Those are the ones that continue to show up the most. Those are the ones we are aiming to do something about.
2. Root Cause Analysis
Once your items are grouped, dig deep for the real causes by conducting a root cause analysis.
Just like in healthcare, it’s always easier to diagnose and treat the symptoms… that only masks the real problem(s) though. Get to the true root causes of the breakdowns. Only then can they be eliminated going forward.
You’ll likely discover that by fixing a specific root cause, numerous other problems simply disappear.
Remember, no blame game… no pity parties… no fighting! Remove the emotions and get it done!
3. Choose Course of Action
Now that we have identified the root causes, it’s time to create a plan of attack for each.
Essentially there are three paths we can travel with each root cause. Choose the most appropriate course of action for each:
- Accept – Accept that it is what it is and move on
- Mitigate – Take measures to lessen the impact
- Eliminate – Knock the breakdown out!
Once you decide on a course of action, take massive action!
So, in a nutshell, much can be gained from simple reflection if it is done correctly and regularly.
Grab the complimentary ‘Lessons Learned’ template I offer here and USE IT. Add it as a staple agenda item into your meeting rhythms. Get in the habit of trusting that this brief pause we call reflection can propel you forward.
Here’s to your success!