April 2012 | Management
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Todd Henshaw, PhD, Director of Executive Leadership Programs, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; former Director of Military Leadership, West Point.
Create a culture of continuous performance improvement and adaptive learning by systematically reviewing team successes and failures.
Called “one of the most successful organizational learning methods yet devised,” the After Action Review (AAR) was developed by the United States Army in the 1970s to help its soldiers learn from both their mistakes and achievements. Since then, the AAR has been used by many companies for performance assessment. And yet, as The Fifth Discipline author Peter Senge notes, efforts to bring the practice into corporate culture most often fail because “again and again, people reduce the living practice of AARs to a sterile technique.”
The process itself is an active discussion centered around four key questions:
The AAR is not merely an opportunity to focus on team performance, but also serves as a catalyst for cultural change. To set the stage for effective AARs, leaders must first create a climate of transparency, selflessness, and candor where team members can challenge current ways of thinking and performing. Everyone — leaders included — must openly share where their own performance may have contributed to a team failure, and to acknowledge the people and practices that helped create the team’s success. Used regularly to assess successful and unsuccessful events, AARs will strengthen teams and improve performance, and can become engrained into the DNA of the organization. When key learnings from AARs are shared, the experiences of one team can benefit the entire organization.
Going through the motions of an AAR is relatively easy — putting AARs into the DNA of your organization is the challenge. The following steps will help to make AARs a “living practice” that can transform team and organizational performance.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, Director of Innovative Learning Solutions at Wharton Executive Education. It is jointly sponsored by Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton Professor of Management Michael Useem, Director. Nano Tools Academic Director, Professor Adam Grant.
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