After Action Reviews
An After Action Review is a facilitated discussion about a project or activity that allows the people who were involved to review what happened, track progress, correct unintended effects and capture recommendations for the future.
- Time to do: About 2 hours but a flexible approach can be taken
- Staff: A skilled facilitator and a note-taker
- Cost: £
- Equipment: Flipcharts/pens/post-its
- small groups
How to do it
- Appoint a facilitator, preferably someone not directly involved, so that they can remain objective.
- Hold the meeting as soon as possible so that memories are fresh and team members are still available.
- Include all key members of the team.
- Revisit the objectives in order to establish a common understanding of the activity
- What did we set out to achieve?
- What actually happened?
- Why were there differences?
- Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses
- What worked well? Why?
- What could have been improved? How?
- Identify specific actions
- What would you do differently next time?
- What two or three key lessons would you share with others?
- Produce short list of key recommendations to inform future projects or activity.
- After Action Reviews can be held almost anywhere and do not require a lot of advance preparation.
- A flexible approach can be taken, so the meeting can be formal or informal, longer or shorter, depending on the complexity of the activity being reviewed.
- They help build trust among members of the team.
- They help to overcome a “blame culture” and a fear of making mistakes.
- After Action Reviews do not have to wait until the end of a piece of work; they can be most useful when they are carried out after key stages throughout a project so that the lessons can be applied immediately.
- Skilled facilitation is required to ensure that all team members take part and contribute to the discussion.
- The emphasis should be on the participants committing to specific actions, rather than on writing up a long report which will sit on a shelf and be forgotten.
- This is not a performance evaluation but a learning event; care should be taken not to focus on a list of complaints, assign blame or critique individuals.
- After Action Reviews were first developed by the US military. The USAID website has a detailed manual which includes checklists and planning documents.
- Collison, C. & Parcell, G. (2004) Learning to Fly: practical knowledge management from leading and learning organizations Oxford: Capstone