Facilitating Project Performance Improvement: A Practical Guide to Multi-Level Learning

By Jerry Julian | Go to book overview

APPENDIX A:

PROBLEMS WITH TRADITIONAL
“LESSONS-LEARNED” PRACTICES

Sue Newell et al. (2006) claim that “we need to consider problems with the actual practice” of lessons learned. They claim that the fundamental problem with traditional codification practices—where knowledge is written and stored for future use—is the pervasive underlying assumption that knowledge can be possessed and therefore can be readily transferred to others in textual form. This view does not take into account the embedded, situated, and tacit nature of knowledge that manifests itself in practice. Newell et al. claim that “some knowledge can be possessed independently of practice… while other knowledge is deeply embedded in practice, making social networks necessary for knowledge sharing” (p. 170).

Ilan Oshri et al. (2006) demonstrate the negative impact of a “reuse” program designed with the cognitive “knowledge as possession” epistemology as its foundational structure. The researchers used an ethnographic case study approach to analyze a newly introduced knowledgereuse program in the product development process of an Israeli defense product manufacturer. They found that management's efforts to reuse knowledge from past projects in product development had the unintended consequence of stifling the development of expertise. Before the reuse strategy was introduced, engineers and technicians developed unique, sometimes redundant designs, which led to “reinventing the wheel.” Yet the motivation for learning and collaboration was high, and new engineers were developed through mentoring practices and exploratory learning opportunities.

The authors argue that it was the epistemological assumptions concerning how knowledge could be transferred between projects in the reuse

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