Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Introducing AAR – a story in quotes

Originally uploaded by Kalinago English

Here's a story about introducing After Action Review at an industrial plant. The story is told in quotes from the people involved. There's some good learning here!

"It was important, that the management group here and all the people would be aligned, including the contractor. Our CKO came in and put on his presentation to the management group, as well as to the contractor, and after the presentation nobody had any doubt that this was intuitively the way to go, though there was scepticism about the AARs themselves. To a person they supported the concept, but I am not sure they felt comfortable that it would work out in the field".
"We got the senior people in the plant committed to the idea, and some good people seconded onto the project. That was the fundamental key to success"
"I think the biggest disappointment was at the stage in the training where we get to the bit of ‘now how do you apply it’. We've gone through the chalk and talk, we've done AAR's in Bird Island, building the tower, and now - what is going to happen in the real world? We have the desire that we come out with a specific statement, and it just doesn’t work - people need time to let the ideas they've been presented with sink it"
"After the 2nd-3rd day of meetings with the supervisors, talking about general things, you could tell they were losing interest, so I said ‘let me work with one of your craft teams’; and it took off from there. That’s what I mean by getting your foot in the door; they didn’t want me bothering the workers, but it became apparent to the Front Line Supervisors that this was they way to go. So we got it to the field; where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you get most from an AAR, and you can start cascading it up. Unless you get in at ground level you miss a lot of resources".
"We took what they gave us. Because there was scepticism, the closer to the date we got the more sceptical and worried people got. They backed me up to where they gave me only 2 support teams and no crafts people. I was discouraged, but took what they gave me and worked with that. I thought, well if that’s what they will give me I will work from there. So I got my foot in the door and expanded it from there. We were willing to be flexible and take what they gave us. It would have been real easy to drop the thing. My mindset was that if you start working with the supervisors, very quickly they will get into their own area of work, and will not have that much in common".
"These guys would be craftsmen themselves and become Front Line Supervisors during turnaround. Good workers, in the plant all year, with existing skills and knowledge, and some leadership ability. They are not used to conducting meetings or facilitating, so it was important to give the support. Get out there, facilitate a couple, bridge it over to them and be there with them, then back away and let them go".
"We went from a formal workshop approach, to a very informal workshop round a table, and field support afterwards. My advice to others would be to know your customer, know who you’re dealing with, know the people, and know what they are more apt to expect. If you’ve got front office people, more technically oriented, and they have been to workshops in the past, then the workshop training is nice; good hands on stuff. But if you have people who are used to moving all day, don't sit in offices, don't go to workshops, hands-on people, then I would use this informal approach, with field support. I’m not saying that the front people wouldn’t enjoy the workshop at some time, but where we were, they were wanting to get on with the job".
"Another point was that there was some action taken almost immediately after things were brought up. We were not just generating Lessons Learnt, but things were improved the next day. That helped to sell the crafts people and the foremen on the use of AARs".

"I generated the lessons learnt on a day to day basis, and I highlighted the day before in bold. I gave 2 lots of feedback. I gave the 1 pager back to the team the next day, and talked from that a bit. They saw how it was being used, and how action was coming out. I also took the lessons and I had 2-3 minutes in the 3pm turn-around meeting. I spoke about 1 or 2 of the lessons and that helped to build some credibility in the teams, and hopefully planted the seed for the next exercise. The report of lessons got to be 5-6 pages, and typically these would be read during the meeting and they took them with them - you never saw them left on the table at the end of the meeting".


Marina Hiscock said...

Wow, just this morning I had a chat with one of our senior people and after doing a lot of traditional AAF's we found that we are not actually learning from the bullet pionts captured in the AAR's and I made the decision that we will rather use a story telling format from now on. I am now trying to get my head around the "how" .. so this is my thoughts, we will have two or three people in the room with a timeline .. from the time we negotiated the deal until the time we are implementing .. the people involved will then tell the story (good and bad) And I will capture on dictaphone. The next step is to build a kind of a "story board" on powerpoint to capture these learnings in "story format", the same people will then have to tell the story again but this time to a broarer audience in the business when we will capture the story in DVD format. The dvd and story board will then be available to share further. Do you think this is a good approach, or do you have a better approach? Time is limited to get these guys in a room so I need to have a very "sleek" but effective approach? Would love your comments Nick.

Nick Milton said...

Hi Marina

I would say it's probably not a question of the format of the AAR output, but whether anyone takes any action as a result. The same will be true of larger scale knowledge capture approaches (which I suspect you are describing, rather than the 15-min short and focused AAR).

I am not sure that DVD and storyboard will necessarily work any better than bullets (especially if you give more context behind the bullets) - it depends on the audience, their tolerance and the time they are prepared to invest, and the context within which the material will be accessed. You have several other potential approaches for accessing the material, for example

Peer Assist
Baton Passing
KM planning

but far and away the best will be actually changing the processes and procedures of the organisation based on the learning from your bids. And if the problem is that nobody weants to change anything, then improving the format of your AAR output won't make a difference, I am afraid. Effective may have nothing to do with sleek, and I suspect you have some links missing in your learning loop (see ).

However if you wanted to email me some examples of your current output, I would be glad to make some more concrete suggestions!

PS if you are capturing on dictaphone, why not go the whole hog and capture on digital video? It's more powerful.

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