Sharing lessons learned and best practices

Have a valuable lesson or best practice to share across the lab? Do you want others to learn from your experience? Leverage the Fermilab Lessons Learned Program or best practices in iTrack to share it with your colleagues.

The Office of Quality Assurance’s Lessons Learned Program provides a way to capture and communicate lessons learned across divisions/sections/projects and with the Department of Energy. The Lessons Learned database, located in the Fermilab Quality Tool Suite, is the tool to collect, analyze and share this knowledge. Identifying and sharing lessons learned is one of the Quality Management System’s key contractor-assurance requirements put in place to bolster a robust quality-assurance program. The expectation is D/S/P will use the LL database to record and share mistakes/near misses to minimize recurrences and use iTrack to promote best practices, helping the lab operate more efficiently and effectively.

Using the LL database

Submit: The LL database is the main repository of the Lessons Learned Program. A lesson learned record is created using the template that calls out the vital information: the source of the lesson, an analysis of its root cause, the benefit of sharing it, pertinent keywords, applicable topics and work/process descriptions. All iTrack users can access the LL database and submit their information. Instructions for submitting a lesson learned are available through the FQTS User Guide and FQTS Training Module 3d – Enter a Lessons Learned Item Type.

Another way a lesson learned is captured and shared is via iTrack, Fermilab’s issues management database. When found as part of an internal review, a lesson learned is captured as an item and shared the same way as the process described above.

Review and approve: The OQA has incorporated a quality-control review process for lessons learned. It assures the reader that the LL record is complete and of value. After a lesson learned is created in the database, but before it is shared labwide or with interested parties, the system notifies the OQA that it’s pending. The OQA evaluates it to confirm the analysis is clear and understandable. If additional analysis is required, the OQA will return it to the author with a request for more information. When the lesson learned is satisfactory, the OQA will approve and add it to the list in the LL database, and the system will share it with specific subscribers or more widely across the lab.

Subscribe: How is a lesson learned shared? The database has a subscription service that allows users to sign up for LL topics or work/process descriptions of interest to them or directly applicable to their work area. When a lesson learned is approved and formally added to the system, the database will automatically notify all subscribers of the selected topics or work/process descriptions of it. In addition to this targeted distribution process, the database allows the submitter to opt for sharing the lesson learned with all subscribers. Instructions on how to subscribe to lessons learned by topic or work/process descriptions are available through the FQTS User Guide and FQTS Training Module 5 – The Lessons Learned Database.

IMPACT: Another feature of the database is mapping lessons learned topics and work/process descriptions to ES&H Integrated Management and Planning Control Tool, or IMPACT, templates. This mapping provides the IMPACT user with a list of applicable lessons learned, based on the template selected, which once reviewed, may provide end users with additional information and insight that may prompt them to further review those processes.

TRAIN: The LL database will also soon be mapped to TRAIN, which will allow sending lessons learned automatically, based on the mapping of LL topics and work/process descriptions to specific TRAIN courses.

For example, employees who are required to take Confined Space training will automatically receive a lesson learned associated with that topic or work/process description. This process improvement further integrates quality assurance and the Integrated Safety Management System.

OPEXShare is the DOE’s tool featuring a library of summaries of lessons learned and best practices from across the lab complex that are shared with subscribers. Fermilab users can use our LL database to share the relevant OPEXShare-sourced lessons learned by submitting them through the database and relying on the system to send out the information to interested parties. Employees, especially managers and subject matter experts, are expected to register for an OPEXShare account.

Best practices in iTrack

It should be noted that at times a lesson learned may be one that reflects a positive outcome, and it should be captured in iTrack as a best practice. A best practice is a positive example of a work process or innovative approach with the potential to be the basis for significant operational improvements or cost savings. Instructions on how to enter a best practice and search for BP items in the iTrack database are available through the FQTS User Guide and FQTS Training Module 4c – How to use the Search Functions.

In summary

Lessons learned and best practices are key elements established by the Quality Management System in support of our contract. The D/S/P activity with the databases is an important measurement of their engagement. Use of the databases should not be limited to submitting lessons learned and best practices but should also include sourcing it for information. Users can use the search function to look for topics or work/process descriptions relevant to an upcoming project or task to better understand any risks or areas prone to mistakes.

The LL program and the BP item in iTrack are ways to record insights into errors and positive outcomes so others can learn from them and minimize mistakes. The process offers a formal way to share acquired knowledge with interested parties across the lab and DOE complex to manage known risks or to repeat successes, which will further result in a more effective and efficient operation. Using this program helps us be good stewards of the resources entrusted by FRA and the DOE.