Survey of NASA's Lessons Learned Process

GAO-01-1015R: Published: Sep 5, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2001.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) procedures and guidelines require that program and project managers review and apply lessons learned from the past throughout a program's or project's life cycle. Managers must also document and submit any significant lessons learned in a timely manner. NASA's principal mechanism for collecting and sharing lessons learned from programs, projects, and missions agency wide is the Lessons Learned Information System. The goal of the system is to prevent NASA from having to "relearn" the lessons of the past. NASA also shares lessons learned through revisions to its policies and guidance. Furthermore, lessons learned from a mishap or operational event are captured in procedure and process documents. GAO surveyed all of NASA's program and project managers to obtain their perspectives on NASA's mechanisms to ensure that past lessons learned from mission failures are being applied. GAO found fundamental weaknesses in the collection and sharing of lessons learned in NASA by program and project managers as well as in the system. Although some lessons learning does take place, lessons are not routinely identified, collected, or shared by program and project managers. In addition, many respondents said that they are dissatisfied with NASA's lessons learned processes and systems. Respondents also identified challenges or barriers to the sharing of lessons learned as well as areas of improvement.

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