When I was in the army, every mission was immediately followed by an After Action Review.
Most of the time, this review happened while still in the field – Stinky, dirty, worn-out soldiers craving a hot shower and a cold beer gather in a huddle and assess what happened.
We knew that it was essential to do this immediately upon completion because important details evaporate over time . . . and absent those details, fewer lessons learned.
This post mission ritual was a “non-negotiable” because we knew that loss of a lesson learned could literally result in future harm up to and including death.
The stakes were high so every team member was fully present and participatory.
Is this not also true in our own personal and professional missions?
Every day/week/month, we perform multiple missions varying degrees of success.
We have moments of brilliance and just as many mistakes.
Both success and failure present us with opportunities to learn . . . and that learning won’t happen unless we open up some time and space right here right now for our version of the AAR.
Of course, the Army has a very well defined protocol for the AAR down to the smallest detail . . . I won’t bore you with the minutia, instead I pulled some excerpts from the Army manual.
AAR – After Action Review – intent is to allow the participants of a training event or an operation to QUICKLY and CONSISTENTLY LEARN the most from their experiences.
LEARN TO LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE
IN OUR BUSINESS, WE DON’T ALWAYS GET A SECOND CHANCE TO LEARN!!!
TIMELY FEEDBACK. Troops need feedback as soon as possible so that they can begin using that information to begin learning and improving. The more objective and accurate the feedback, the easier it is for them to determine what happened and why it happened (ground truth).
ACTIVE PARTICIPATION. People learn more quickly when they are actively involved in identifying their own problems and developing their own solutions. In order for active participation to occur, time must be available and the participation must be encouraged.
An atmosphere must exist within the team that encourages active participation. If team members believe that their input is not welcome, will not be acted upon or that “disagreement equals disloyalty,” then it will be difficult to generate active participation.
FOCUSED DISCUSSION. The discussion must be focused on what happened, why it happened and how to improve. The AAR must focus on solutions, not just problems. Improvements must be based on doctrine.
Keep the discussion focused on the team’s performance, not that of others
FOLLOW-UP. The participants must be provided with the opportunity to put the solutions that they have developed into practice so they can demonstrate to themselves and their chain of command that they have learned and improved. This builds confidence and team cohesion.
Active participation will not occur if the participants feel that their remarks will be used against them or their leaders.
Interestingly for me . . . each of these AAR’s taught me the importance of taking full personal responsibility for my own performance and recognizing how my performance affected the performance of the team.
I was thinking about all of this on my drive to the office this morning – realizing that today is the last day of January – and doing my own AAR for the month in my head.
It occurred to me that it might be useful to do an abbreviated version of an AAR on the last day of every month in a publicly visible way (Facebook) for mutual support and accountability.
I’ll do mine this morning at https://www.facebook.com/barryo06 . . . If you’re inclined to participate, do so and tag me.
Simply answer these question for this month:
- The one word that describes this month is ________
- My most important goal was________
- I achieved (did not Achieve) that goal, and here’s why________
- I am most proud that I accomplished _______________
- I think I could have done better with _______________
- Here are some things I learned this month ____________
Let’s all learn together!