After Action Reviews (Wharton Nanotools)

developed by the United States Army in the 1970s to help its soldiers learn from both their mistakes and achievements. The aim is to foster a culture of continuous performance improvement and adaptive learning by systematically reviewing team successes and failures. 

The process is aimed at creating active and open discussion Around several questions –

  • What did we intend to accomplish (what was our strategy)? 
  • What did we do (how did we execute relative to our strategy)? 
  • Why did it happen that way (why was there a difference between strategy and execution)? 
  • What will we do to adapt our strategy or refine our execution for a better outcome OR how do we repeat our success? 

leaders must first create a climate of transparency, selflessness, and candor where team members can challenge current ways of thinking and performing. All participants need to openly share where their own performance may have contributed to a team failure, and to acknowledge the people and practices that helped create the team’s success. 

Steps in the process –

  1. Schedule After Action Reviews consistently – regardless of an events outcome (positive or negative) – the goal is to make it habit and remove the stigma of reviews.
  2. Gather relevant facts and figures – these facts and observations become the discussion points upon which new processes and reflection can be made.
  3. Make participation mandatory – involving all stakeholders will allow greater transparency, trust, collaboration and allow solutions to reflect the needs, expectations and capabilities of all stakeholders.
  4. Have a three-pronged focus: performance of team members, the leader, and the team as a whole. Keep the attention on facts and outcomes.
  5. Follow the “Rules of Engagement.” – given the nature of self reflection, it’s important that discussions are confidential to participating stakeholders and focuses on outcomes and reflection rather than blame.
  6. Share learning across the organisation – once new processes have been agreed, ensure that the knowledge is spread across the organisation. Through documentation and training.
  7. Consider scheduling a Before Action Review (BAR)  prior to your next significant event

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