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A major impediment to delivery is the inability for leadership and delivery teams to learn from the mistakes made in the past. By failing to apply learnings, teams are stuck in a Groundhog Day-like cycle where similar issues continue to occur, the same lessons are captured project after project, but nothing changes.

Needless to say this has made me (more) cynical. But yesterday, I witnessed something which gives me hope for some organizations.

Living in Canada, one of the ways that many of us mark the changing of the seasons is swapping tires on our vehicles. When the temperature starts to regularly be in the single digits (Celsius), all-season or summer tire rubber hardens like a marble and you no longer have a safe grip on road surfaces. In Quebec, drivers are required to install winter tires but this is still optional in Ontario. Regardless, many Ontario drivers will prioritize safety over frugality by swapping their tires in the month of November.

I had booked an appointment with my local auto association to have a mechanic come to my house to swap the tires on my electric vehicle. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the designs of EVs, the battery normally runs the full length of the car and is located on the underside of the vehicle. As a result, care has to be taken when using a jack to raise the car as excess pressure could cause severe damage to the battery. And as an EV’s battery might be as much as 50% of the car’s cost most owners would want to avoid incurring damage due to negligence on their part!

When the mechanic arrived, he didn’t have a spacer which is needed to create a buffer between the jack and the car’s underside. I explained to him that I wouldn’t be letting him raise the car without that so he called his dispatcher. The dispatcher took ownership of the issue and called him back in a few minutes letting the mechanic know that he could pick up a set of the protective devices from a nearby auto parts store. The mechanic left and returned shortly and completed the work as expected.

I would have expected that the dispatcher would have authorized the purchase of a single set of the spacers for this mechanic’s truck. However, as I was paying the bill, the mechanic told me that the dispatcher had contacted the auto parts store and had placed an order for enough device sets so that each of the auto association’s trucks would be properly equipped.

When you identify a lesson on your project, it is good if you can apply it shortly thereafter. But why not go that step further and find a way to ensure that it becomes part of your organization’s standards and practices?

The lessons we truly learn are those which prevent anyone in our company from repeating mistakes we made.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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