Engaging the Mission

How’d work go?

In the military, work involves engaging the mission. Soldiers practice for the event of war. They strap on their equipment, go the field, 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:

What was supposed to happen?

What actually happened?

Why was there a difference?

What can we learn from this?

According to the experts, the key is being disciplined about the process. To build it into your routine.

If you think about it, many of us have daily engagements.

For example:

What was supposed to happen? We were supposed to build three loads of pallets.

What actually happened?  We built three and a half loads.

Why was there a difference? The raw material was 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 are 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 goals of those events are 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 to understand the purpose of the job.

When you review what actually happened, accountability grows. Roles are defined. The focus is dialed in. Everyone on the team wants to do a good job. Evaluating what actually 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.

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