Saturday, October 23, 2010
After Action Reviews
I spent yesterday at the US Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. During a series of seminars, I had the opportunity to discuss a range of leadership topics with some of the best officers in each branch of our military. One topic involved After Action Reviews and examinations of near-misses. We discussed why they are so effective in the military, and why it's been difficult for companies to emulate this practice successfully. A number of issues arose. First, the military handles the lesson learned exercise separate from any examination if potential wrongdoing. Second, leaders are taught from their first days in the military how to examine themselves critically and how to accept a critique of their actions. Third, they don't rest on success. They don't let a successful outcome reduce the level of scrutiny applied to processes and decisions. The outcome is almost irrelevant in terms of how they go about evaluating a mission with a critical set of eyes. Finally, they never avoid doing a review simply because "they are busy" - something business managers say all the time. Those are just a few of the key ideas that emerged. I'm quite sure many firms would benefit if they made lessons learned as high of a priority as these soldiers do. What a pleasure to learn from these fine men and women who defend our freedoms. May God bless them and keep them out if harm's way.