ESA Lessons Learned SystemAs outlined in the European Space Agency’s “Agenda 2007”, a need was recognized by ESA for improvement in the communication of knowledge and experience across the Agency. Particularly underlined was a need to learn from past experience, not repeat the errors of the past, and to build on successes. An initiative was therefore undertaken in ESA’s Directorate of Technical & Quality Management to improve and consolidate recording and accessing Lessons Learned across the Agency. Moreover, it was recognized that a Lessons Learned system is a prerequisite for ISO 9001 certification, to which the Agency has been striving to achieve for all its Directorates. This initiative resulted in the ESA Learned System.

The creation of the ESA Lessons Learned System (2012) was carried out under the leadership of Dr Kass. Two key elements of the approach in this project were: 1) the creation of a Lessons Learned Tool, and 2) organization of a regular series of Lessons Learned Events. The latter initiative is described in an accompanying use-case article.

ESA’s Lessons Learned Tool

The following key basic principles were followed in the design of the tool:

  • The application is browser-based and built on an off-the-shelf platform (Microsoft Sharepoint).
  • The application was designed to be intuitive and user friendly with clear instructions appearing as necessary to guide the user along.
  • The agreed processes were incorporated in the tool in order to facilitate and ensure as practicably as possible that they are followed.
  • The various stages and assigned roles for submitting, reviewing, approving, and publishing a LL were incorporated in the built-in processes of the tool.
  • Visibility and permissions are set to allow the involved actors to view only the information they need to perform their assigned tasks in the review process.
  • Where applicable, the process is facilitated and supported by help hints and intuitive menus facilitating use of the tool with minimal, potentially off-putting, learning.
  • Moreover, often irritating, over- automation of the process can be avoided by over-riding manual intervention.
  • Lastly, filtering and search tools are incorporated in order to enable easier finding of relevant information.

The tool was so designed that at every stage of the process the user is furnished with instructions, depending on his role, what the next step is, the status is of the entry, who currently is reviewing it, etc. He is guided along appropriately depending on his role, which could be originator, domain expert (reviewer), or member of the verification board if applicable), who finally approve publication of the entry, assign access to it, and ensure protection of privacy and confidentiality.