American Management Association 125
Level 1, facilitating continuous project improvement, focuses on pro-
viding mechanisms that allow project teams to learn from their experi-
ence while work is progressing. In Chapter 1, we discussed the need for
continuous structured learning throughout the project life cycle, so that
teams can generate actions based on their re ective e orts while some-
thing can still be done to improve their results. Among the numerous
problems with postproject reviews is that team members lack the moti-
vation to tackle sensitive or complex issues head- on after the project is
over, since addressing these issues can no longer improve the outcomes.
Continuous structured learning over the course of projects enables teams
to re ect and improve while they are “in  ight,” reducing the risk of the
surprises and blowups that can result when problems remain buried or
Consistent with the principles of multi- level learning discussed in Chap-
ter 2, the purpose of Level 1, continuous project improvement, is to give
project teams a mechanism for re ecting on their experiences in order to
eliminate waste, deliver as fast as possible, and satisfy the customer while
seeing the whole and welcoming new insights as they emerge. They do
this by taking responsibility for their own learning, using a third- party
126 Implementing Multi-Level Learning
American Management Association
coach to facilitate action- re ection cycles at key points in the project,
either after each iteration or upon the completion of key milestones.
After each iteration or phase, the project team assembles to look back
on what results were actually delivered and to what extent the team has
met the expectations for that time period. The project retrospective is
di erent from a standard project review. It is not meant to replace it.
Standard project reviews are informational. They provide the senior team
or the PMO with updates on what a project has delivered, its status, and
what needs to happen next to either get it back on track or keep it run-
ning. The focus is on the project team receiving feedback from the key
decision makers, emphasizing what the team should be doing to meet
expectations. The project retrospective is di erent. Consistent with the
principle of empowering teams to take responsibility for their own learn-
ing, it asks the team members to re ect on what actions they need to take
to continually improve on their results. The project retrospective enables
team members to re ect on the project without the added complexity of
“saving face” or defending their approach in the presence of their peers
or managers.
As noted in Chapter 3, the multi- level learning coach has no decision-
making authority and serves as a substantively neutral third party. She
works with the team’s project manager to plan and conduct prospective
and retrospective sessions to clarify what needs to be done, re ect on what
was actually accomplished, and plan improvements for the next time pe-
riod. While the PMO leader or his designate may or may not attend these
sessions, a key function of the PMO is to capture the learning and knowl-
edge that results so that they can be applied to other projects and pro-
grams that can use them.
The project manager takes the lead role in prospective discussions,
with facilitation support from the coach, while the coach takes the lead in
facilitating the retrospective.
We now turn to the steps required at this level. As shown in Figure 5.1,
these include (1) plan and conduct the prospective, (2) execute the plan,
(3) plan and conduct the retrospective, and (4) update project plans, issues,
risks, and lessons learned. Coverage of each of these steps follows, begin-
ning with Step 1.

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