Change is hard. There is always a certain inertia to overcome. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt can keep teams rooted in the way things have always been done. And if a leader is trying to push a “big” change on the organization, watch out! There are a thousand ways to subvert it… almost as if there is an organizational immune system that seeks to eliminate changes to the status quo.
It is why I like After Action Review so well.
- Incremental. It is small. It lets change evolve naturally. And it gives quick feedback to the team about how they do their work – based on what they did, they adjust and do it again and then evaluate it again. This is the virtuous cycle we call Plan-Do-Check-Act (Adjust). Improving what you already doing is easier, faster, and meets with less resistance.
- Start where you are. The AAR lets the team start where it is, how it is already doing its work, rather than trying to switch out one process for another. Once they get in the habit of seeing their process as something that they can change, the rate of innovation becomes dramatic.
- Quick wins made visible. It creates positive change that is visible to the team. They can draw the connection between what they suggested and what was changed. And they have visibility about when changes have been implemented and who is responsible for making those changes.
- Guided. And changes are guided both by what leaders expect of the team and what the team knows and actually does.
- Builds trust. Perhaps the most important benefit of AARs is the way it helps build goodwill and trust
(what you might call an organization’s “social capital” ) through small victories achieved frequently.
This is so much better than large victories achieved once in a while. The team learns to learn together, to communicate effectively about “real” things, and comes to feel good about working together. It builds a bond.
- Builds capacity. Over time, the team learns to accept change, to embrace it as the way we do things. They don’t stay satisfied with the status quo. This is especially so when leaders reinforce the message. What happens is that when the innovative, breakthrough, “big” changes come along, the team has the capacity to accommodate the change. They have learned to think in a different way.
- This is the “happy discovery” that every team and every leader I have coached has made. What seems like a simplistic routine is really a foundation for change and growth and teaming.
Of course, this doesn’t happen over night. It requires intention and systematic follow up until it becomes routine.