Do you know someone who always thinks things in their area are going really well, even when they’re not? They self-report that everything is great, and you don’t hear them describe struggling with any significant challenges, yet you and others know that’s not quite accurate. How can you serve them and help them realize they are actually not doing a good job without being a jerk? You don’t have the capacity for a complete work study in their area, and yet you care too much to keep letting things go on the way they have been. How can you help them see what it’s like to be on the other side of them? They need a doable plan that will force intentional, critical evaluation.
One of the skills I’ve been wanting to grow in recently is the capacity to evaluate effectiveness with greater accuracy and specificity. I’ve come across the US Army’s After Action Review (AAR) process and have found it really helpful. Very simply, it’s a tool to review what did and didn’t happen during a mission or an event, and is intended to help those involved make performance improvements. This certainly does not cover every aspect of an evaluation, but if you begin asking those you are leading to utilize a process like this, it will help key management components surface in a variety of areas, such as leadership, organization, time management, lack of clarity and redundancy.
The AAR is a way to evaluate effectiveness. During the AAR, you ask questions like: What was good? What wasn’t quite so good? What are we going to do about it? The technical components of an AAR include the following:
Initial object. What were our intended results? What was planned?
Reality. What were our actual results? What really happened? What we learned. What caused our results? What is the take away?
Goals. What will we sustain or improve?
Experiments. What are some upcoming opportunities in which to test our hypotheses?
3 tips for doing an AAR with your team:
1-Do this formally and informally: AAR’s could be formal, and scheduled on the back end of an initiative or project deadline. They can also take place informally, through casual conversations around your office. Both are vital, but to get the ball rolling you’re going to need to request a formal AAR on the back end of a particular project or task.
2-Take off your Hat: For others to fully engage in this process, and for it to be effective, you’re going to need to flatten things, where hierarchy and organizational structure are concerned. You want honest feedback for all those participating, so everyone involved needs to take off their hat for the conversation, meaning setting aside their title or role and inviting honest feedback and engagement. Remember that leaders go first, so model what this looks like for your team and show them how and what to do by giving feedback first, without your hat.
3-Be Specific: Keep things as specific as possible during AARs. The more specificity, the more clarity, and the more concrete suggestions you can offer, the wider the door opens for the possibility of improvement. Those you lead can’t do a better job without actually knowing, first, if they are or aren’t.
Give this idea a go and let it open new insights and thoughts about how to help people reach their potential.