An after action review (AAR) is a discussion of a project or an activity. It enables the individuals involved to learn for themselves what happens, why it happened, what went well, what needs improvement and what lessons can be learned from the experience. The spirit of an AAR is one of openness and learning – it is not about problem fixing or allocating blame. Lessons learned may be tacitly shared on the spot by the individuals involved or explicitly documented and shared with a wider audience.
The size of an AAR may reach from two individuals conducting a five minute AAR at the end of a short meeting to a day-long AAR held by a project team at the end of a large project. Activities suitable for an AAR simply need to have a beginning and an end, an identifiable purpose and some basis on which performance can be assessed. A suitable moment for an AAR is the end of a project and each identifiable event within a project.
“After the Dare to Share Fair 2004, the organisers reviewed what happened and what the outcome was. We did this by using the checklist “how to organise an international conference” and collected experiences, new ideas and proposals for future conferences of that type. In doing this we exchanged our impressions about what happened, what went well, what could have gone better and shared the lessons to be learnt for the future. At the end and with the help of the “checklist”, a case of the Dare to Share Fair was well described for future organisers.
My lesson: Do not just list “lessons” but choose a format that could serve others in a similar situation best.”Manuel Flury, Head Knowledge Management Service (2007)