Can the US military help your business?


Originally developed by the US Army, all US military services now conduct an ‘After Action Review’, or AAR, after a project or event. They’re designed to be a structured review or debrief of the process, to find out what happened, what went well, what went badly, and identify opportunities to improve the process the next time around.

A type of continuous improvement process, an AAR culture can be highly effective in any team environment, as they take any blame out of the mix, and encourage constructive review and discussion. They encourage a future of accountability, continuous improvement and knowledge sharing. At the same time, the team’s understanding improves and analytical skills are enhanced.

Given the fractured nature of some teams since working from home and in disparate locations, an AAR process may be helpful in bringing teams back together, even in a hybrid working format.

We have several clients who conduct quality reviews after projects, and these are very similar. Those clients have seen improvements in quality and accountability since implementing the process, and AARs can do exactly the same.

Points to consider include:

  • What should have happened?
  • What did happen?
  • What results were expected?
  • What results were obtained?
  • Did the timescales fit with expectations?
  • Were there any issues around completion of the project in terms of timing, cost, profits…?
  • What steps could be taken to improve the outcomes in the areas above for future projects?
  • Is there a training or development need that the project has highlighted?

The US army suggests the 25% of the time allocated for the AAR be spent reviewing what happened, 25% reviewing why it happened and 50% of the time now hat to do about it and what we can learn from it.

It’s important that any AAR takes place almost immediately after a project completes. As time passes details are forgotten, and perceptions change. Improvements can be made quickly, and potentially to projects that are already underway, reducing the risk of any negative outcomes from the AAR being repeated.

Record keeping during an AAR is vital, as is retention afterwards. There may well be a time when you wish to look back at the earlier projects to clarify or check future findings; make sure that you can do so easily!

If you use AARs in your business, or a variation of them, do let us know how useful you’ve found them. Early indications are that they can be hugely beneficial.


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