The earliest evidence I have yet found of an After Action Review (AAR) is demonstrated in the image below. This shows a copy of the daily routine followed by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America (and much more), which included a period of reflection at the end of each day to answer the question, “What good have I done today?”
In seeking to make sense of how he had behaved during the day and to understand the impact of his actions, Franklin was in essence undertaking an AAR to explore and learn about his daily experiences. In his autobiography Franklin reveals that he was conscious of his imperfections and felt that structured approaches like regular writing in his journal were vital to help him improve himself. After Action Review operates on the same basis by acknowledging the benefit of reflecting on the recent past, learning from it and seeking ways to continuously improve.
So, what can we apply from Franklins’ daily routine and the use of AAR to help us cope well at this time?
1. Create a daily routine:
Many people who are new to home working have been telling us how helpful it has been to establish a routine and create some order out of chaos. Don’t worry if it doesn’t always go to plan as it is in the planning that the majority of the benefit comes. As Franklin said,
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
2. Use this time to learn from your own experience:
We learn most when we are out of our comfort zones and for most of us, the Covid 19 response has meant we are having to do many things differently and have been quickly learning what works and what doesn’t. To deepen and enrich the quality of the learning, ask yourself this question at the end of the day; “What have I learnt today?”. Follow it up with “And what else have I learnt?” at least three times as the brain can be slow in releasing its best lessons. You will be surprised what you discover. Record what you learn to strengthen the value.
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
3. Focus on the progress you are making:
Notice Franklin didn’t ask himself “What did I do wrong today?” Instead he deliberately focused on what he did right, the work he accomplished, the progress he made. This is not a time to beat yourself up over your mistakes or your struggles to cope. This is a time to evaluate our behaviour, acknowledge room for improvement, and celebrate each small step forward.
“On the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been, had I not attempted it.”
One of the many things I have learnt through my daily AARs is best expressed by Franklin himself.
“Happiness consists more in the small pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life.”
If you would like to find out more about how After Action Review will help your teams adjust effectively and maintain cohesion at this time, please get in touch. Thanks