This After-Action Review process was shared with me by my professor Christopher Allen at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (now Presidio) while I was earning my MBA. I’ve used it regularly over the years and find it an invaluable process for reviewing work with clients and teams. You can find more of his work at ALifeWithAlacrity.com
This process of reviewing the project work post-completion is essential to team learning. It puts an aspect of closure onto the project and allows for prediction of future project outcomes. The associated notes act as historical tracking documents for the team.
Other tools that arise from AARs:
· Use review of schedule to plan the next project
· Identify areas of work backups or bottlenecks
· Successful work habits can be shared between team members
To enhance the productivity of the review process, each team member should contemplate answers to the questions below prior to the scheduled review meeting. It is important to note this is for preparation only and member’s answers to these specific questions will not be shared with the rest of the team.
1. What were the objectives of the project? Were the objectives clearly stated?
2. Were the objectives of the project met?
3. Did everyone work from the same set of objectives?
4. Were the requirements of the public agreement known, understood and adhered to?
5. Did the requirements change? If yes, why and how often?
6. Was there a project plan? Was it maintained throughout the project?
7. At the outset, was the schedule realistic?
8. Did the project plan change? If so, why and how often?
9. Are you proud of our finished deliverables (project work products)? If yes, what’s so good about them? If no, what’s wrong with them?
10. What was the most gratifying or professionally satisfying part of the project?
11. Which of our methods or processes were difficult or frustrating to use?
12. In considering all stakeholders, (teammates, professors, etc), how could we improve their participation?
Team members may also refresh their memory of their experience of the project by reviewing meeting notes, emails, and other documentation.
1. Adopt the mindset that everyone did the best that they could do.
2. Speak without assigning blame. Avoid defensive responses.
3. Each person must have a chance to have input in the review process.
4. Focus on what could be done better and process.
Ideally this space would be filled with a recount of proposed deadlines vs actual deadlines and potentially reasons for the change.
What Went Well and Issues Gathering:
1. Collect statements of what went well on notes or post-its. Be specific and simple.
2. Gather statements of issues that came up during the project. It’s important to be cognizant of downward spiral tendencies. Be specific and focus on process.
3. Group statements into like categories and eliminate redundancies.
The goal of this part of the review is to identify the top 3 issues we will choose to address in the next project. This will be achieved by each team member receiving 3 votes to use however they choose. After each member has voted the results will be tallied and the top three issues will be chosen.
Brainstorm Solutions for Top 3 Priorities:
Break into two groups (volunteer facilitator for second group). Follow similar style as issue gathering. Collect ideas for solutions using post-its and notes. Come back to group and decide on ways the issues will be addressed going forward.
Reiterate any action items including report author to document results of the AAR. Allow each member to check-out with how they are feeling about taking this information forward.