WILY: Learn From the Canoe in Front of You

Yesterday we took a canoe trip down the Tuscarawas River.  The water was up a bit from the previous day's rain and there were a couple of mildly choppy spots.  The thumbnail picture for this post was taken right before the first, and roughest, of those spots.  

My wife and two sons launched first and were ahead of us,as you can see from the photo.  They entered the "white" water first.  They came in tight along that crop of downed branches on the left and the current was running strongly from right to left where it picked up.  Having to adjust quickly to keep from running into the branches, they unfortunately (actually, humorously) overcorrected and all three of them ended up in the water.  

After watching them wipe out, Mary and I kept our canoe very close to the right-hand shore and allowed plenty of room for the current to push us left.  We ended up turned around when we tried to slow the canoe's progress to the other shore, but we remained upright and dry.

I took two lessons away from the experience:

First - and this one is kind of cliched, but true - someone had to take the risk and go first.  None of us are experienced paddlers and it had been years since we'd been in a canoe.  But, the first boat didn't hesitate to enter the rough water.  They flipped, but realized that it wasn't a big deal.  They immediately jumped back into the canoe and continued.  When they reached the next rough section, they navigated it with no problem.

The second takeaway relates to capturing the lessons learned during every project.  

Over the course of a project things are going to go well and worse than expected.  There will be surprises.  Sometimes they'll even flip the canoe.  It's important to capture these lessons and make them available throughout the organization for future projects.

At minimum, they must be captured before a project is closed.  However, it's ideal to capture them as they happen.  Record the lesson as it happens, and the second canoe avoids tipping.  Wait until the end of the project, and that information won't be available until the next trip down the river.  

Lessons learned can be recorded in a simple spreadsheet or database that's available to the entire project team.  A meeting at the end of a project to review the lessons is important, but as noted above, that should not be the only time they are discussed.

Make lessons learned a continuous process, and your projects will also stay upright and dry.