If your company or team isn’t applying an after action review (AAR) because doing so “takes too much time”, caught up in the complacency of success or otherwise applying yesterday’s successes and expecting them to work today, it’s only a matter of time before you forget about all the hard work that goes into learning and staying relative. Soon you’d be asking your competitors how they’ve won, because they are learning and will be the ones who benefit from consistent, organizational learning.
In the military, AAR is conducted after every major training and mission with the goal to capture and share knowledge from every participant’s perspective at every level. From the business perspective, an AAR meeting could be relevant to use at the end of a major project, after an event, after a development sprint, after a sales presentation, etc. Therefore, we recommend for an AAR be built into every project timeline, to be checked off before archiving the Project and moving on to the next one. Here are six reasons why an AAR is a must for staying relevant:
1. After action reviews help you think better
While execution is important, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing if your behaviors are wrong. An after action review allows you to think better because their purpose is to question any and all previously held assumptions and beliefs, inciting greater curiosity. Read about the 3 key questions to ask when conducting an AAR.
2. After action reviews help sustain competitive advantage
Employees will leave their jobs one day, and this means that they take their tacit knowledge and experience with them, leaving it up to the person behind them to begin learning anew. When a new hire comes on board—experienced or not—they’re essentially starting at ground zero, and the ramp up time required for he or she to “be ready” is not only a sunk cost but an emotional cost, as well. The stress of trying to learn as much as possible and as fast as possible is the typical expectation but it’s not even feasible. What an AAR does is provide a go-to knowledge bank replete with tacit knowledge. The byproduct is a knowledge pool that allows newbies to read in between the lines that they wouldn’t receive otherwise.
3. After action reviews minimize interpretation
Clarity of message is one of the single greatest sources of organizational chaos. When there’s ambiguity you have bias and personal interpretations that serve individual agendas. With clarity, however, you have a well-oiled machine; you can execute seamlessly and flawlessly throughout the organization because the organization itself is fit to perform. There isn’t much to wonder about when messaging is clear which is exactly one of the benefits that AARs provide: clarity in learning. When learning lessons are clear, there’s more time to focus on being productive about work rather than being busy trying to figure out how to work.
After action reviews are a must to organizational learning. If you’re not constantly learning, you’re already behind the curve.