Lessons Learned from Collaborative Writing Projects

We make mistakes every week on our Technical Writing projects. However, since we’ve started to capture things in our lessons learned meetings, the ‘repeat offenders’ have gone down. Running web-based Technical Writing projects is difficult as you don’t get to meet the team you’re managing, so sessions like this can make a real difference.

Lessons Learned – Is it worth the effort?

If you keep making the same mistakes in your Software Development projects, then one way to improve the development process is to created a Lessons Learned Template, preferably in Microsoft Word, and use this to share those really crucial lessons, insights and workarounds.

One way we do this is to create a web meeting near the end of the project. Note, not when it’s over. I also arrange for my team to meet with our customers and discuss what went well and what could have been done better.

It’s low-key and no finger-pointing.

‘We want to improve – can you help?’

The purpose is to:

  • Develop a better understanding of how others see us
  • Improve our tech writing processes
  • Examine where communications broke down
  • Capture unexpected issues that arose during the SDLC
  • Identify those who deserve credit for going the extra yard

After the meeting, we capture the information in the Microsoft Word templates and share these with the tech docs team so others have an opportunity to learn from this experience – get the credit they deserve.

Remember, it’s not a blame game.

Format for Lessons Learned

The purpose is to capture what worked well and what could have been improved. Then look at all the key areas during the design, development and testing phases:

  • Business Requirements – identify what was missed or not captured correctly when writing the business requirements
  • Design Phase – discuss if we needed to be more involved in this phase and what we missed.
  • Development – outline what techniques worked best and where issues arose, especially when we worked with the developers to understand how the system worked
  • Test – identify gaps in the testing strategy and how the linkages to the tech writing department could be improved
  • Project Plans – identify what worked well and areas for improvement in the project management lifecycle
  • Communication – identify how to develop a better communication plan that meets client expectations. You can also look at developing better report writing methodologies.
  • Quality – identify how to improve the quality of the deliverables
  • Risk – identify how to reduce risks and how to track these across all development phases
  • Team Characteristics – identify which team performed above expectations and where others could improve.
  • Other Comments – identify other observations that need to be shared, such as teamwork, professionalism, work relationships, responsiveness,as well as technical observations in relation to the tech writing software.

Do Lessons Learned Work?

None of this works unless what you share is useful, accurate and balanced.

The point of the Lessons Learned document (especially when documenting Software Development Projects) is not to criticize your writing team – or pass the blame to someone else – but to share insights that they may have overlooked.

What else would you add?

Download these templates to start

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan