Culture and Lesson Learned Methodology

Within most global organizations, the same version of a “Lessons Learned” (LL) methodology is blindly used with all populations, despite the cultural and behavioural factors which inhibits the  effectiveness of the  lessons learned methodology.

Three  examples will suffice.

1) Let’s take the example of Holland, Germany, Israel and France where criticism can be well valued.

During the process of LL, overly positive statements may even be  seen as “ducking out”;  dwelling for too long about what went well is as boy scout-ism from which little can be learnt. The result of lessons learned in these cultures  is a list of things that went wrong, why and what needs to be done differently by whom the next time.

2) In many parts of Asia, public negative statements about things that have happened are avoided to enable save facing.

During the process of LL, communication will be oblique, indirect and low keyed and one will need to understand what was not said. Apology, humility and a promise to try harder next time are the publicly shared lessons learned that can be generated within these cultures.

3) In the US and Western Europe, the overdosing on politically correct can obfuscate lessons learned because the lessons, once learned, need to be cleansed linguistically.

Clearly all 3 cultures are ill suited to apply the same  lessons learned methodology.  Yet LL methodologies originate in western corporate headquarters and as such are based on one flavour suits all.

An interesting and value creating role for an OD consultant is to interpret the cultural script of a lessons learned exercise . Herein is a vast secret code which is fascinating to decipher. 


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