Friday, July 13, 2012

Powell on After Action Reviews

“The goal of an AAR is to get everyone around a table to review the battle, learn what went wrong, learn what went right, and work out how to train to do better.” – Colin Powell
(Photo credit: The New York Times)
The Powell Perspective

Powell brought the concept of after action reviews to the public stage during a “Face the Nation” interview in 2009.
“On Sunday, Mr. Powell called for an “after-action review” by Republicans of why the party had fared so poorly in the November elections, and what the party needed to do going forward. “After a battle or after a training exercise, you bring all of the leaders in,” he said. “And you say, ‘What’s going right? What’s going wrong? What did we do right or wrong? And how do we move forward?’ ” (The New York Times, May 2009)
In “It Worked for Me,” Colin Powell goes into depth on AARs. Here are some of his thoughts:
  • AARs are used to review, not grade.
  • AARs are done for improvement, not for the unit’s success or failure in the mission.
  • Subordinate leaders are expected to share the AAR results with every subordinate in the unit.
  • The system works because it is a training process, not an evaluation process.
  • The process checks egos at the door.
  • AARs require honest participation and a focus on learning.
  • Leadership and personnel problems revealed by AARs normally get fixed privately.
After Action Reviews (AARs) – The WF Perspective
Fire leaders walk the talk of the learning organization by scheduling routine debriefings to evaluate performance and apply the lessons learned. AARs maximize learning from every operation, training event, or task; they represent a powerful tool for team and organization learning.
AARs allow people to share honest opinions and learn from each other. Fire leaders make sure that debriefings focus on what instead of who; we use them to improve weaknesses and to sustain strengths.”

Source: It Worked for Me - In Life and Leadership. Colin Powell with Tony Koltz. May 2012. HarperCollins Publishers.

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