Take time to review actions at the end of project or events. This action enables leaders apply lessons learned the next time. The military thoroughly reviews and documents actions after every key event. As they begin their next planning cycle, leaders revisit those reviews to identify how to apply lessons learned to repeat effective actions and avoid repeating mistakes. Learning to analyze an event and gather important lessons is easy.
There are several principals to conduct post event reviews. Have all the key people at the table. Honestly document what was supposed to happen and what really happened. Analyze why the things that went well went well, and poorly; and why those things happened that way. Participant judge events, not people. Check egos at the door. File the review so it can be found and used later.
All the Key People
Key people does not mean everyone unless the event was small. Key people include the crucial leaders, contractors, organizers, observers, and key people from your red team. You want the people there who have the ability to make decisions during a similar future event that affect outcomes.
Document What Happened
This sounds simple but is not always easy. During this step top leaders may learn what
they wanted to happen is not what others understood was supposed to happen. When you talk about what was supposed to happen, you may have to break it down into several levels. What really happened is also not so easy. Not everyone saw the same thing for a variety of reasons. Things may have gone well in their part of the project because the logistics section fixed a problem before others know about it. If others did not see it, the problem still existed and should be documented and analyzed.
Analysis during the review is nothing more than answering a bunch of relevant questions. What went well and why? What problems cropped up and why? How well did communications work? How did leaders make decisions at critical times? How well did the decision making process work? How did leaders solve problems? What things went well that could have gone better? How can we prevent the wrong things from happening in the future? These questions are just an example series, but a good start to any analysis.
When judging good, bad, success, and failure, focus on events and decisions, not people. If a leader made a poor choice at a key event examine why. The group may learn the leader lack important information, or had a poor understanding of the situation. Focusing on why the leader made the decision allows him to learn from mistakes, identifies potential problems in processes outside that leader’s control and reduces defensiveness improving learning.
People do not like criticism. The offense perceived is proportional the size of the ego. The learning from observations that look like criticism is inversely proportional to the size of the ego. Avoid the problem; check egos at the door. This rule needs to be posted and enforced by the group facilitator. When an individual becomes defensive during discussions related to decisions or actions she made, it is an indicator she brought her ego with her. Stop the conversation. Restate the rules. Focus on the actions or decisions. These measures ensure maximum participation and learning occurs.
File the Review
File post activity reviews so others can find and learn from them. Taking time to review and identify lessons achieves nothing if filed forever. Dig out those reviews when you begin the next project planning cycle and learn.
A post activity review is an important process in any learning organization. Conduct reviews with all the key players after every major event or project. Identify what was supposed to happen and what really happened. Analyze the good and the bad of each event, action, and decision during the activity to identify important lessons. Judge decisions and actions to avoid offending and shut down learning. Check egos at the door to ensure everyone learns and participates. Adding a review at the end of every project or training event ensures lessons learned are available for use when a similar activity occurs next time.
All photos were found on flickr.com and used under a Creative Commons License.
U.S. Government photo-National Guard Bureau
U. S. government photo-USAID
Cars: Modified from two photos. Limo by caccamo. Small Car by Hsing Wel
Pie Judges by Sarah R