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After Action Review

Is your company a “learning organization”, committed to continuous improvement and not willing to repeat mistakes?  If not you should be and if you are you should be performing postmortems or After Action Reviews (AAR) on all your projects and releases. Before we get into the purpose of the AAR we should address those organizations that are not dedicated to learning.  If your organization continues to stumble in the dark stubbing its proverbial toe on the same piece of furniture but refusing to move it, stop and move the furniture!  If your site continues to have availability issues then apologize, mean it, and fix it. Sooner or later your customers will leave frustrated at your inability to learn from your mistakes.

If you’re part of the other type of organization that strives to learn from mistakes and not repeat them, After Action Reviews are for you.  As covered in the Inc.com article Leadership: Armed with Data, companies repeat mistakes because they either fail to figure out what went wrong or they fail to institutionalize the fix.

In a typical AAR, the project’s stated goals or objectives are compared with observed results by the project team and a discussion is conducted to identify why the results differed. Sometimes the team can identify what went wrong and why. Other times the team will know what went wrong but perhaps not the reason why. It is okay to leave with open action items for investigations. It is not okay to leave without people assigned to document, implement, study, or report to the team later on the how the discrepancy is going to be improved. If the team only identifies the problem but doesn’t do something to keep from experiencing it again, they are only half way done.  Don’t let these lessons learned drop out of your organization’s collective memory. Complete the process by institutionalizing the solution.

There are lots of resources for learning how to perform an effective AAR.  Get in the habit of conducting them after projects and institutionalizing the solutions.


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  • A Lightweight Post Mortem Process | AKF Partners Blog

    in April 19th, 2010 @ 19:34

    […] discussed the need to perform post mortems or AARs in our post entitled “After Action Reviews”.   Our new book includes a description of how these meetings should be run, but given the […]