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Organizational learning through post–project reviews in R&D

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Post–project reviews are one opportunity to systematically improve performance in subsequent projects. However, a survey reveals that only one out of five R&D projects receives a post–project review. Post–project reviews – if they take place – are typically constrained by lack of time and attention as well as lack of personal interest and ability. They focus mostly on technical output and bureaucratic measurements; process–related factors such as project management are rarely discussed.

In this paper we review the role of post–project meetings as a tool to improve organizational learning at the group level. Based on 27 in–depth interviews with R&D managers carried out between 1997 and 2001, we categorize four classes of learning impediments. These difficulties are not easily resolved, as is illustrated by examples from Hewlett–Packard, DaimlerChrysler, SAP, Unisys, the US Army, and others. We propose a five–level post–project review capability maturity model, identifying some of the key capabilities that need to be in place in order to advance to the next process maturity level. Most companies reside on the first or second maturity level. Our conclusion is that many companies give away great potential for competence building by neglecting post–project reviews as a tool for systematic inter–project learning.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland

Publication date: 2002-06-01

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