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After Action Reviews

    After-action reviews, or AAR as they are known, are a way for individuals and teams to capture lessons learned and apply them to future work activities. AAR are structured reviews which look at what happened during a project or program, why it happened, and how it could be done better next time around, both by those involved in the previous work, and by others who may be tasked with similar work in the future.

    The AAR is a professional discussion that includes the participants and focuses directly on their tasks and goals. It is not a means of criticizing what happened, but rather a means of learning dispassionately without the need to apportion blame if things didn’t go well. In fact, an AAR doesn’t judge success or failure, but discovers why things happened. An AAR should focus directly on the tasks and goals that were to be accomplished and encourage employees to share their findings and observations. In this way those involved can recall openly, and help to capture lessons learned to be shared with others.

    AAR can be either formal or informal in nature: formal AAR are usually run by a facilitator and follow a clear chronological framework, or at least a pre-defined running order and set of objectives: informal AAR are typically much shorter and more loosely structured, taking shape as the participants engage with each other.

    Learning from the AAR is taken forward by the participants for future use, and can be shared with a wider audience depending on the requirement of the organization.