Business Center

After Action Review

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

After Action Review (AAR) is a simple, rapid method for assessing a project. An AAR can be done in less than 1 hour and is a critical element of the SOLVE approach since it often yields additional opportunities for improvement.

The AAR is format includes 4 simple questions, two focused on gaps in the process and two that help identify successes and future improvements. Documenting and sharing results from your AAR will help the same mistakes from being repeated.

How to Apply It

  1. Get individuals involved in the process and/or project together in-person to answer the 4 questions. Allow for roughly 10 minutes per question.
  2. Introduce the purpose of the AAR and provide the group with clear instructions for how the session will be conducted.
  3. Ask these (4) questions one at a time:
  4. What did you expect to happen?
  5. What actually occurred?
  6. What went well and why?
  7. What can be improved and how?
  8. Record participant responses and redirect the group if they go off-topic.
  9. Document and share the results of the AAR.
  10. Make an action plan for improvements identified during the AAR.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • You must be a strong facilitator and keep the group focused on - a way to make an answering the question at hand; otherwise it is easy to get side-person, (e.g. having individuals respond by email or over the telephone) loses the beneficial tracked and not finish the AAR. Not conducting the meeting in the discussion.
  • An AAR isn’t a complaint session. If someone identifies a problem, be sure to follow-up and ask for a solution improvement.

Tips for successfully facilitating an AAR:

  1. Explain the concept and set expectations (ground rules) with the group
  2. Appoint someone to act as the timekeeper (approximately 10 minutes per question)
  3. Ask the participants one question at a time to keep the group focused
  4. Use a whiteboard or flip chart to capture responses & participant names

Example AAR

after action review

Assessment Feedback Tool

date/facilitator
list of individuals who participated in creating the AAR
3/31/2015 (facilitated by Kate)
Bob Jones, Jane Doe, John Smith, Mary Lamb, Sleeping Beauty, Doctor Know
process, project or program name:
CIA Courses
What was expected to happen?
  1. Learn something new
  2. Receive tangible documents and processes to use
  3. Learn Lean methodology and how to apply Lean tools
  4. Learn how to create process maps, use 5S, conduct risk mitigation/planning & use change management
  5. Receive real-life examples
  6. Learn how to incorporate these methods into your own work
  7. Interact with co-workers
What actually occurred?
  1. Exceeded all expectations
  2. Received a wider perspective from classmates
  3. Hands-on activities helped us understand how to apply the Lean tools
  4. Group activities allowed us to interact with co-workers we normally wouldn't interact with
  5. Learned to think critically and take initiative to solve problems in our everyday work
 What went well and why?
  1. Group work - participants were open, focused, respectful and participated, and it increased learning & understanding
  2. Assigning groups - changing the groups with different courses allowed you to meet new people and learn about new perspectives, and new ideas
  3. Deliverables - were useful for work processes and incorporated into actual work and increased understanding
  4. Spreading out of classes - allowed time to assimilate information and felt like a reasonable time commitment
  5. Class size - allows for a lot of interaction with a variety of different people
  6. Presentation formats with different presenters and activities kept people engaged
 What can be improved and why?
  1. More managers participate/involved in the CIA to help get broader buy-in across the Dept.
  2. Create a syllabus for each course - like a college course, to clarify agenda, expectations, and deliverables
  3. Make the 101 course longer and cut it into 2 separate time frames (e.g. either morning & afternoon or 2 dates close to each other) because of the quantity of information is really good but also overwhelming