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Unlock the potential of After-Action Reviews

Sharing actionable tips from my agency, enterprise, start up, and life experience with a design and developer twist.

Today I am going to teach you about After-Action Reviews (AARs), a technique that originated from the U.S. Army.

Learning and applying AARs in your product team could foster genuine trust, insightfully learn from mistakes, and figure out how to repeat unanticipated success.

Many teams fail to use AARs effectively. Instead of producing sage and honest analysis of errors and oversights they:

Increase productivity by more than 150%

Open conversations where we surfaced every perspective and harvested all insights was the formula for the best product teams I’ve ever worked on. Everyone felt a deeper connection. ARRs ask four simple questions to recreate a narrative of an event.

  1. What did we expect to happen?
  2. What actually happened?
  3. Why was there a difference between what we expected and what actually happened?
  4. What can we change next time?

Three tips to improving ARRs:

  1. Cultivate a community, not a process
  2. Spend 75% of your time on the 2nd question
  3. Tell the whole story

Process can be objective but also abstract. Instead of creating this detachment, real change requires personal commitment. Focus on the team, your clients, and others in the community. Empathize with stories of how the event affected them personally. Make this a priority.

Sitting with the question “What actually happened?” allows for every small detail to be properly parsed from everyones perspective. Everything is surfaced, everyone is on the same page, and that collective perception helps people reflect productively on their memories.

Evading accountability and people playing the martyr are overcome by engaging every other person who was present to share their version. Reconstructing the whole narrative of the event takes time, but everyone remembers it, and will dig out the true causes of good and bad results.

Shifting towards the narrative increases participation, phycological safety, and the productivity of the entire team. Derive deeper meaning and a strong bond by deploying After-Action Reviews.

That’s all for now. See you online!


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