There is an important growth, engagement and learning opportunity that the best teams will make a priority: the after action review (AAR). In addition to regular check-ins and course corrections throughout a project or client engagement, the AAR is a discipline that will help us all to #beEVENbetter. Here’s the great news, it doesn’t have to be a long, taxing process. Here are four questions, with a few best practices, that our team uses to make sure we are learning and growing continuously while engaging every member of the team.
- What went well? This gives us an opportunity to celebrate success which is so important to teams. Encourage your team to call out each other by name. For example, “Julie really did a great job with…” Additionally, as the team leader, you are also participating—but I usually go last.
- What got in the way? This is where we talk about any barriers or failures we may have experienced. This keeps us from repeating mistakes over and over. In many cases, this is where we realize that we might need to change a process or involve someone else sooner to help us drive greater impact.
- What did we learn? This is the section where we address what we learned from the failure as we assume a beBetter mindset. As a team? Personally? About someone else's work style? About a system or process? Typical responses range from personal revelations to technical learnings—all are important and I love long lists here!
- What will we do differently going forward? This usually results in a tangible list of actions (i.e., move the notification email up by 3 days; give a preview to the partner in charge before announcing to all the firm; add something to the process; etc.) This is the place where we assign timelines/deadlines and who is responsible. As the leader, you’ll note these commitments and hold your team accountable.
I’ve picked up a few best practices along the way that may help you too:
- In the meeting itself, I ask the questions one at a time and give my team two minutes of individual think time and ask them to make a list of their responses (I learned this from my friend Tom Hood!). The rationale is simple: First, introverts tend to process internally, so this helps team members collect their thoughts. Second, I want to hear from every person on the team—when we’ve all had that individual think time, I know they have an answer to each question prepared.
- We use the same questions for every AAR—which means our team knows the process and we can execute an AAR fairly quickly without compromising impact.
- When this is a part of your way of life, it also means teams are evaluating projects in the middle of them and taking notes in preparation for the conversation they know will wrap up a project.
Rushing past the discipline of an AAR means you’re missing the opportunity for ongoing growth, learning and increased impact. You’ll repeat mistakes, keep your team frustrated and compromise engagement. Do you really have that option? What are some other practices that drive ongoing improvement and team member engagement?
About the Author
Kassi Rushing, APR, is passionate about building the Wise Firm. She dreams daily about the firm we are creating and adamantly believes HORNE is a place where team members can achieve their dreams and reach their Full Potential. You can learn more about our Wise Firm on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at www.wisefirm.com.