A perfect time to ponder...
Overcast and grey, blustery, wet and chilly.
That was my visual weather report this morning as I scanned the horizon from my warm and well-pillowed perch on the window seat.
A perfect day for staying inside and pondering. Pondering life…the ups and downs, various relationships, perspectives on things done and things not done, opportunities ahead….and the After Action Review (AAR)
I’m a great believer in the After Action Review.
This is not to say that I’m a consistent implementer of the AAR. But when I do, I find it thought-provoking, inspiring, and incredibly useful for continuing to do things better over time.
But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
Intention comes first. Before the analysis inherent in the AAR.
From its Latin root intentionem, intention is about "stretching out" or exerting effort toward something. It implies a context or big picture.
Clarity about intention comes from answering at least the following questions--
- What are we trying to accomplish (our vision and mission, our objectives)?
- What is most important in the way in which we accomplish it (our values)?
- What does "good" look like in terms of the result (measures of success)?
Once the our intention is clear, we have a frame of reference within which to do our After Action Review.
The After Action Review
The AAR is about attention and action. Paying attention to what we're doing and how well we're fulfilling our intention. It is a robust process when done correctly.
If you aren’t familiar with the AAR, it’s a military practice that consistently generates the best (or at least better) performance through a disciplined review of key actions or engagements.*
There are four phases to the AAR (planning, preparation, the review, and follow through) and four core questions that guide the AAR discussions. The four questions (below) most relevant for what I'm writing about here.
- What did we set out to do (what did we expect to happen)?
- What actually happened?
- Why did it happen that way?
- What will we do differently (to make it better)?
What I like about the AAR is that it enables people (teams) to come together on an even playing field to analyze what just happened and then to make adjustments (improvements, hopefully) that can be applied right away.
It is not a 'post-mortem', which (in a business context) is a review after a project is completed. The AAR is an on-going process that is implemented during an engagement or project, after significant events (actions) or at specific times.
So instead of just capturing learnings and storing them for future reference, as in a post-mortem, the AAR is a co-creative process that enables people to think and act differently while the work is still happening.
I'm thinking about it now because I like to use a version of the AAR to be more conscious about how I'm living my life, how I'm engaging with my clients, and how I'm running my business. The end of year/beginning of year time frame is ideal for an AAR.
* Note: Regardless of how you may feel about the military, they have rigorously studied leadership and implement most of the very best leadership training based on that research. If you would like to learn more about the specifics of the AAR process, here’s a good Harvard Business Review Article from years ago that explains the concept and the practice in detail.
And then there was light...
Days are really short this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.
The sun rises around 8:00 am and sets around 4:25 pm. So even when the winter weather isn't overcast or stormy, light is a cherished commodity.
Light that brings to our awareness that which has been unclear or unseen, unspoken or unexplored. That is the gift of time invested in pondering...of clarifying and perhaps refining our intentions, honestly reviewing our results without blame or criticism, and applying what we learn so we continue to grow. Growing so we can better live into those intentions and better serve the world around us.
Image Credit: Lexi Ruskell
- QUESTION ONE:
How do you want to impact the world (or your corner of it) during the coming year?
- QUESTION TWO:
What one or two things (approaches, practices, mindset) will help you do that most easily?
- QUESTION THREE:
What relationships do you most want to nurture this coming year? And how will you do that?
Outside, the wind sends the tall evergreen trees into a wild dance and pushes the water into white capped ridges and waves that pound the shore in a constant roar. The thick layer of steel grey clouds rolls rapidly southward as if propelled on some invisible conveyor belt.
Occasionally there are thin spots.
Briefly, the peaks of the Olympic mountains are visible, sparkling white from new snowfall. Glimmers of what lies just beyond.
Hope...opportunity...new beginnings in the midst of the tumult.
What a great reminder as we begin this new era...