The After Action Review (AAR) is a formal group reflection process used by the military and other organizations to analyze critical decisions or moves.
At its core, the AAR seeks to answer four questions: What was planned, what actually happened, why did it happen, and how can we do better next time?
The focus isn’t on grading success or failure but on identifying weaknesses that need improvement and strengths that should be sustained. The knowledge gained from the AAR can then be shared with others who’re planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating similar efforts.
Conducted in an open and honest climate, the AAR involves candid discussions of actual performance results compared to objectives. It requires input and perspectives from all stakeholders involved in the project or activity. The goal is to ensure everybody feels part of the solution, not the problem.
AARs are a powerful tool for continuous improvement that enables organizational learning through reinforcing personal and organizational accountability and continuous assessment of performance successes and failures. They’re an excellent way to identify best practices (what should be spread) and errors (what shouldn’t be repeated.)
The wisest and smartest people and businesses can reflect ex post facto. As the saying goes, “He that will not reflect is a ruined man.”