How’d work go?

In the military, work involves engaging in the mission.  Soldiers practice for the event of war.  They strap on their equipment, go to the field, and simulate an encounter.

The way the military “cements” learning and improvement is by conducting an “after action review.”  A review is a disciplined approach where four questions are asked. According to the experts, the key is being disciplined about the process.  Building it into your routine during daily engagements.

For example:

  • What was supposed to happen?

We were supposed to build three loads of pallets.

  • What happened?

We built three and a half loads.

  • Why was there a difference?

The raw material was of good quality.  We executed our changeovers well.  The forklift driver made sure all the material was in place when the machine was adjusted.   We transitioned smoothly.

  • What did we learn?

Executing those transitions is the key.  We communicated well as a team.  Our forklift driver anticipated the timing well.  We need to do the same thing every day.

We allow time for “two-minute talks” and “five-minute walks.” The goal of these events is to improve communication and identify ways to get better.  It seems like we should find a place for “after-action reviews” as well.

When you describe what is supposed to happen, you give everybody the big picture.  Repeatedly.  It helps everyone understand the purpose of the job.

When you review what happened, accountability grows.  Roles are defined.  The focus is dialed in.  Everyone on the team wants to do a good job.  Evaluating what happened compared to the plan sharpens things.  It points out things you do well.  It identifies areas that need to be addressed.

Regular reviews build competence.  Regular reviews promote professionalism.

Gather the team you work with.  Ask the questions.  Act upon what you learn.