After Action Review

Review and reflect for future learning

Overview

After Action Review is a participatory reflective tool to review and critique completed actions, in order to improve performance and solutions in the future. It allows the group to reflect together objectively on what happened in a given situation, compare it to what was supposed to happen, discuss the reasons why it occurred and identify insights and learning for the future.

How to use it

  • Applicable in nearly any context, even with limited time.
  • Induce accurate reflection on the learning process.
  • Generate objective evaluations free from personal criticism.
  • Reformulate experience to give a clear and cohesive picture and reiterate lessons learned.
  • Decide on actions that will apply the learning in the near future.
  • Set the stage for Phase 3 of the blended learning approach by either facilitating an online activity or reviewing results during the face-to-face training.

How to apply it

 Start:

Explain the purpose and process of the activity. Decide on action to be reviewed.

Materials:
  • Create custom questions according to the guidelines in the diagram above.
  • Provide flip-charts or writing tools to track key points.
Time/Steps:
  • Divide groups according to the number of participants and available facilitators. Can be used with an entire training group, or in small working groups.
  • Present the questions one at a time in the most logical sequence, allowing enough time for reflection.
  • Encourage participants to share collaborative reflections.
  • The first question creates a common understanding of the goals of the activity being reviewed. The second question deals with the actual results and outcomes of the activities.
  • The third question unearths the causes of the end result in order to understand the consequences of actions, decisions and influential factors.
  • The fourth question elicits ideas and insights on what to do next. This will generate a series of action items that would lead to more positive results in the future and reinforce change.
  • Close the session when the participants have exhausted all their insights and answered all probing questions.
  • Debrief and invite comments or questions to evaluate the learning of participants.
  • Follow up with a record of the key points, action items and indicators to measure the activities success.
  • Include activity name, contact details of persons of interest, specific issues and problems still requiring a solution to create a tool for the participants.

Case study

Title:

An after action review

Activity:

Think UN

Contact:

M. Panadero (UNSSC), T.Wambeke@itcilo.org (DELTA)

Description:

The method is used regularly at the UN System Staff College to evaluate in-house operations, for end-of-day facilitator debriefing and as a part of participant learning exercises. It is also incorporated into the end-of-activity evaluations. The standard form asks four key questions to gain insight into the participant experience and provide crucial information with which to improve future activities,  “What was expected of the course?” “What happened during the course?” “Why did it occur this way?” “What could be done to improve the results?” The structure elicits clear responses from the participants and paints a comprehensive picture for those responsible. It also allows participants to reflect on their own experience and use the lessons learned.

Tips

  • Do it immediately after the activity or project to ensure the experience is fresh in participants’ memories.
  • Ask a participant to record the responses (e.g. in a series of flip-charts) to capture the lessons learned, and then share them  in a document or online resource for future reference.
  • If participants are initially hesitant to discuss what did and did not work, try asking everyone to individually express both a positive and a negative thought, or provide sticky-notes and instruct participants to post their insights for everyone to discuss later in the session.
  • Build this method into regular learning or operational routines to ensure a constant flow of productive feedback.

Resources

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