The Army is probably one of the world's largest hierarchical and bureaucratic organizations, yet when it comes to training it has managed to flatten itself out and become more of a horizontal organization. By performing After Action Reviews (AAR) after a training activity, it turns it into a learning process that involves all the participants, from the lowest-ranking soldiers to commanders to interested outsiders and observers. It focuses on the tasks and goals to discover why things happen. . . never to judge success or failure. An AAR is perhaps one of the ultimate performance improvement tools because it encourages all stakeholders to share and learn in order to have continuous improvement.
An AAR is an assessment conducted after a project or major activity that allows employees and leaders to discover (learn) what happened and why. It may be thought of as a professional discussion of an event that enable employees to understand why things happened during the progression of the process and to learn from that experience. Examples of when to use it are: introduction of a new product line in a production facility, after a busy holiday season in a retail store, introduction of a new computer system upgrade, after a major training activity, a change in procedures, etc.
Video: David Gurteen's keynote talk at KM Middle East 2011
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