“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”- Bill Gates.
This article in accordance with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) mandate to strengthen the operational capacities of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to be sustainable and resilient in West Africa, seeks to explore lessons learnt as a tool for CSOs to improve upon their organisational performance.
Undeniably learning lessons and integrating it into our day-to-day activities is the ideal way to improve upon our life endeavours. Lessons learnt are experiences accrued from previous activities, initiatives, actions or behaviours that should be actively taken into consideration in future actions or behaviors. Lessons learnt (previous experiences) can either be on the negative or positive side and incorporating it in our organisational needs can accrue several benefits.
Why CSOs Should Leverage on Lessons Learnt
For the purposes of this article, I will highlight four major benefits I believe CSOs could drive from leveraging lessons learnt.
Learning lessons improves organisational performance; learning lessons as an organisation facilitates knowledge sharing and promote mutual values. It creates room for self-development and broaden the operational capabilities of the organisation.
Learning lessons helps the organisation to know areas that best needs attention; learning from previous experiences helps define the context of every organisation. It portrays a detailed strength and weaknesses thereby making it easier to know where to direct your attention.
Learning lessons is crucial in designing a new project; as CSOs who are into planning and execution of projects, leveraging lessons learnt has the potential to enable a smooth and high-quality delivery of every project whiles improving the visibility the organisation locally and in the international front.
Lessons learnt enhances efficiency and effectiveness among staff; integrating lessons learnt as an institution has the potential to boost the skills and competencies of staff thereby increasing their confidence to approach any given task, efficiency and productively in the organisation.
Challenges Associated with Leveraging Lessons Learnt
Here I explore some challenges associated with leveraging lessons learnt.
The assumption that we already know; often than not our assumptions that we already know is what impedes our ability to succeed. Incorrect assumptions lie at the root of every failure. Organisations tend to believe they already know, and they see no need to reflect on their failures or previous experiences. This type of mindset is woeful and does not promote for a new development or growth.
The unwillingness to adopt new culture; I know setting aside a day to reflect on the lessons learnt as an institution is not embodiment of your organisational culture. I understand that as a programme officer, you are trying to meet timelines and complete the task your desk. But how will the change come about if we are unwilling to learn new things? If you want to improve your yield and productivity, then you must be willing to make time to learn new things.
‘The I don’t know how to do it’ factor; integrating and maximising lessons learnt to enhance organisational output does require a lot more conscious effort than usual. It encompasses the willingness to do it and knowing how to do it. The first step to making good use of lessons learnt as an organisation is by identifying them. Identifying lessons learnt is one key step to maximising its highest potential. It involves deliberating and appreciating their feasibility and finding practical solutions to counter any similar occurrences in the future.
In conclusion, in an age where CSOs sustainability and resilience is increasingly becoming an issue for discussion, it is imperative that CSOs cease every opportunity that brings out the best version in them and make them thrive.