Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Walking the Talk with AARs

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 organizational 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. (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 42-43)

(Photo credit: Trinity Ridge, Kari Greer/US Forest Service)
What is an After Action Review (AAR)?
An After Action Review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables firefighters to discover for themselves what happened, why it happened, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses. It is a tool leaders and units can use to get maximum benefit from every incident or project.

Where Was the AAR Developed?
The AAR was developed by the military in order to create an avenue for feedback, promote evaluation and improve unit cohesion. The AAR is now used worldwide by military organizations, governments and private industry. It is considered a valuable tool in high-risk professions where the smallest mistakes can lead to disastrous results.

Why Conduct an AAR?
It is essential for wildland firefighters to learn from our mistakes and to capitalize on our successes. The price we pay for failure can be exceptionally high and the amount of effort put into our successes is often left unrecognized. The objective of the After Action Review is to immediately identify these success and failures. Once they have been recognized, further exploration allows the team to perfect it's skills and be better prepared for future endeavors.

What is the AAR Formats?
The wildland fire service recognizes four AAR formats (click for complete information):
AAR Resources
  • The Wildland Fire Leadership Development website has a wealth of information, including a link to an AAR training package developed cooperatively between the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee and the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.
  • The AAR guidelines can be found on page xii in the IRPG.

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