Identifiying and documenting “Lessons Learned”: A list of references

Editor’s note:

This is a very provisional list of documents on the subject of Lessons Learned, what they are, and how to identify and document them. If you have other documents that you think should be included in this list, please make a comment below.

Note: This is not a list of references on the wider topic of learning, or on the contents of the Lessons Learned.


  • EVALUATION LESSONS LEARNED AND EMERGING GOOD PRACTICES. ILO Guidance Note No.3, April 2014. April 25, 2014 “The purpose of this guidance note is to provide background on definitions and usages of lessons learned applied by the ILO Evaluation Unit. Intended users of this guidance note are evaluation managers and any staff in project design or technically backstopping the evaluation process. There is separate guidance provided for  consultants on how to identify, formulate and present these findings in reports”



  • The NATO Lessons Learned Handbook. Second Edition, September 2011 “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”



  • Lessons Learned from Evaluation M. J. Spilsbury, C. Perch, S. Norgbey, G. Rauniyar and C.Battaglino Special Study Paper Number 2 A Platform for Sharing Knowledge. United Nations Environment Programme. January,2007. Lessons presented in evaluation reports are often of highly variable quality and limited utility. They are “often platitudes borne of a felt need to demonstrate engagement in the ‘knowledge society’ or simply to satisfy the specified evaluation requirements”. Even where high quality lessons are developed, they are seldom communicated effectively to their intended audiences. In order to enhance the quality of lessons, improve their utilisation, and aid their dissemination and communication, a Framework of Lessons from evaluation is presented in this paper. The framework consists of common problems, issues and or constraints to which evaluation lessons relate using ‘Mind- mapping’ software and ‘problem tree’ techniques. Evaluation lessons were systematically classified within the resulting Framework of Lessons. The proposed framework of evaluation lessons is best used within the context of interactive ‘face-to-face’ communication with project / programme managers to ensure that evaluation lessons truly become ‘lessons learned’.



  • Criteria for Lessons Learned (LL) A Presentation for the 4th Annual CMMI Technology Conference and User Group , by  Thomas R. Cowles Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems Tuesday, November 16, 2004


  • M. Q. Patton (2001) Evaluation, Knowledge Management, Best Practices, and High Quality Lessons Learned American Journal of Evaluation, 22(3), 2001. Abstract:  Discusses lessons to be learned from evaluation and best practices in evaluation and some ways to bring increased rigor to evaluators’ use of those terms. Suggests that “best” practices is a term to avoid, with “better” or “effective” being more realistic, and calls for more specificity when discussing lessons to be derived. (full text not yet found on line)


If you know of other relevant documents and web pages, please tell us, by using the Comment facility below

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