Employee Development, Feedback / Evaluation, Training Strategy

Implementing After-Action Reviews

In a previous article, we discussed the concept of After-Action Reviews (AARs), a military practice that involves extensive analysis of training events after the fact.review

In that article, we explained the importance of AARs and how they’re used to evaluate the effectiveness of military training efforts. They can also serve a role in business settings. Here, we’ll look at how to implement this tool.

Important Elements of AARs

All AARs have the following points:

  • Are conducted during or immediately after each event
  • Focus on intended training objectives
  • Focus on soldier, leader, and unit performance
  • Involve all participants in the discussion
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Are related to specific standards
  • Determine strengths and weaknesses
  • Link performance to subsequent training

And every AAR should include the following:

  • Introduction and rules
  • Review of training objectives
  • Commander’s mission and intent (what was supposed to happen)
  • Opposing force (OPFOR) commander’s mission and intent (when appropriate)
  • Relevant doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)
  • Summary of recent events (what happened)
  • Discussion of key issues (why it happened and how to improve)
  • Discussion of optional issues
  • Discussion of force protection issues (discussed throughout)
  • Closing comments (summary)

So, let’s look at the phases of an AAR:

Phase 1: Planning

In the planning phase, qualified individuals are selected to review the inputs into the training event and start to look at the data to be captured, schedule the AAR, identify participants, and then review the planning.

Phase 2: Preparation

Once a training event begins, the individuals identified in the planning phase will record their observations. These observations will be collected and organized in order to reinforce teaching points.

Phase 3: Execution

After the training is completed, the AAR is conducted. “Goals are to seek maximum participation from members of the training unit, focus on training objectives and teaching points and to record key points derived from the observations of all participants.”

Phase 4: Follow-Up

Once the exercise and the AAR have been completed, the leaders will incorporate the AAR findings into identifying and correcting weaknesses through retraining and revised operating procedures.

AARs are used in the military because of the high costs and safety risks of training exercises designed to mimic combat situations as closely as possible. Even though the stakes are much lower in the business world, there is still room to consider using postactivity evaluation techniques that can provide a greater depth and rigor. How could you put AARs to work in your organization?