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Resources for "After Action Reviews"

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From Jake Mazulewicz at Thanks.

AAR1) How Three Technical Experts Improved Reliability, Safety & Employee Engagement

"Some leaders do AARs only for accidents or errors. If you do that, your team will quickly associate AARs with failure. And they’ll give short, vague answers to get it over with as fast as possible. So, lead about 80% or more of your AARs for successful projects. That way, your team will learn to trust the process and value the results."


AAR2) How Three Technical Experts Improved Reliability, Safety & Employee Engagement

"Before Sandy started this journey, investigations were not only punitive, they were slow. They regularly burned up 3-6 months of time and effort before any results were published. By that time, most people’s memories of the original event, and their motivation to learn from it, had simply evaporated....


For two years, Sandy kept streamlining and simplifying her Event Debriefing process. She built trust by keeping the process 100% transparent to executives, regulators, other event debriefers, and every employee who she debriefed....


By the spring of 2020, Sandy had refined her process so well that she and her team reduced the average analysis time from 3-6 months to only thirty-two (32) days! And quality remained high. The new Event Debriefing process included thorough fact-checking, causal analysis, a review of human and organizational factors, and clear, actionable conclusions."




AAR3) "A Better Approach to After Action Reviews" by Fletcher et al. in Harvard Business Review"

“The Army's After Action Review (AAR) is arguably one of the most successful organizational learning methods yet devised. Yet, most every corporate effort to graft this truly innovative practice into their culture has failed because, again and again, people reduce the living practice of AAR's to a sterile technique.”



AAR4) “Learning in The Thick of It” by Marylin Darling et al. Harvard Business Review

“By creating tight feedback cycles between thinking and action, AARs build an organization’s ability to succeed in a variety of conditions... In a fast-changing environment, the capacity to learn lessons is more valuable than any individual lesson learned.”


AAR5) The U.S. Army's After Action Reviews: Seizing the Chance to Learn

An excellent 9-page book chapter on AARs.


AAR6) Video of an AAR in Progress -- from the Wildlands Firefighting Lessons Learned Center

If you prefer, skip the preamble and fast forward to 02:30 to see the AAR.


AAR7) The Origins and Development of the National Training Center 1976-1984

“At the National Training Center the principal learning experiences were the after action reviews (AAR) that took place as soon as possible after each force-on-force and live-fire mission and at the end of a unit's rotation.” (p.101)


AAR8) The Leader's Guide to After Action Reviews (AARs)

"The AAR does not evaluate success or failure.

There are always weaknesses to improve and strengths to sustain.” (p.14).


AAR9) The Leader's Guide to After Action Reviews (AARs)

"You'll probably know when something unexpected happens because you'll feel surprised, puzzed or anxious... Trust those feelings...resist the temptation to gloss over those feelings and treat it as normal... one of the best moments for learning, a moment of the unexpected, is also one of the shortest lived moments. People in HROs [High-Reliability Organizations] try to freeze and stretch out their unexpected momentsin order to learn more from them.” (p.31).


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