After action reports

It's tempting to only hold post-mortem meetings when things go poorly. But, these meetings present important opportunities for teams to reflect and learn how to optimize their effectiveness. In the military, after action reports are a formalized process to answer the following questions:

  1. What did we set out to do?
  2. What actually happened?
  3. Why did it happen?
  4. What do we do next time?

Despite everyone participating in the same operation, answers to the first two questions are often different. It's important to clear up discrepancies before trying to diagnose any causal relationships. Then, after getting the facts straight from different perspectives, the team should discuss both what should be repeated / sustained and what should be changed / improved in the future.

Remember that memories fade fast. So, answer these questions as quickly as possible for maximum impact.