You Need to Conduct an After Action Review

Jan 22, 2020 | 2 comments

I am wired to move forward.

During the Facebook Parties for the Reflecting and Preparing packet, many of you said you are the same. Others said, “What?! No, reflecting is the best; planning is the hard part.” Obviously, both are important. That being said, just because something is important, doesn’t mean we will do it.

Last month I read about “After Action Reviews” in Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt. They were designed by the US Army in 1981 to provide a structured way to look at “failure.” After learning about them, my hope is that you and your team will start implementing them.

I have already done two, one for the January Challenge (though it is still going on!) and one for a cross-cultural worker conference I attended last weekend.

Because seeing a model is helpful, here is the After Action Review I did of the January Challenge. I have included most of what I wrote (I’ve left out the parts that are private).

An After Action Review involves four stages:

  1. State what you wanted to happen.
  2. Acknowledge what actually happened. Tease out themes, single words or phrases, even complete sentences.
  3. Learn from the experience.
  4. Adjust your behavior.

State What You Wanted to Happen

—To create a “Reflecting and Planning” packet that was appealing, holistic, geared to cross-cultural workers, and helpful.

—I wanted people to actually DO the packet? How? Let’s have parties! with great prizes.

—Find enough sponsors willing to donate prizes. Use the sponsors as an opportunity to partner together AND cast a vision for resources that are available. I hoped to begin to plant seeds of how cross-cultural workers (CCWs) can invest in themselves and their work. I also wanted to demonstrate the generosity of the sponsors.

Acknowledge What Happened

Packet: Pleased! with the length and look. People were able to download without problem. People reported that the packet was helpful. Not all of the pieces were ready ahead of time — it was only three minutes before it went live that the final piece was in place. 6:57 a.m. my time!!! Yikes!

Theme: Useful/helpful

Parties: They worked!! They created the nudge for people to actually do the packet. They created space for CCWs to connect with each other and interact. They had a fun atmosphere. In the 5th party, I explained about “liking” in this setting and saw the engagement go up considerably. Several men joined (not as many as I would like, but a good start). Several people joined multiple parties (yay, yay, yay!!). 8:00 a.m EST and 1:00 p.m. EST parties better attended than 6:00 p.m. EST. Wise to have an assistant! Now I see that it is a must to hire help.

Theme: Fun!

—Sponsors: Most potential sponsors who I contacted said yes and even creatively offered more than I asked for. I created a document of the prizes so they could review and sign off on the wording of their gift and sponsorship before the challenge went live. After a winner was drawn, I emailed the winner of a prize and the sponsor within 24 hours of the party (often within a few hours). Most sponsors responded promptly (several were traveling and I was able to let the winner know). I realized that services (i.e. coaching, spiritual direction, TCK services, editing) have more flexibility to be creative in what they offer than a product (i.e. book, jewelry, language learning notebook). After the last party I sent a summary report to all of the sponsors, giving them a taste of what they helped make happen!

Theme: Generosity in action

Learn from the Experience

Oh my word! I learned so much from the January Challenge!!

1. Get all of the pieces needed earlier (I’m still shocked it all came together in time). Have clearer deadlines and share them with those who need to know.

2. I ran test runs and was able to catch website glitches. Unlike the Newsletter Challenge and 5 Ways to Meet Jesus in Advent gift, glitches were caught before. We have learned the problems and how to solve them before something goes live. High five to me!!

3. I absolutely always must have help during a Facebook Live Party — the person must be good with details.

4. The “Party assistant” position is ripe for mentoring. Be intentional and allow a young person to see a side of CCW they might not see.

5. Build a sponsorship pool — this is a fun and win/win way to partner with amazing people, resources, and organizations.

6. Be intentional with future challenges and use them as a way for CCW to connect and share with each other. Global Trellis can be the gathering spot.

7. In that vein, after the first challenge I learned what NOT to do with a Facebook group. So, I need to rethink the Newsletter Challenge and package it as a resource, not a challenge.

8. The party host needs to keep the energy and party moving. I had not realized how much I would need to be on. I’ll be more prepared next time!

9. The 6:00 p.m. EST was not a good time slot. (Who knew?! I thought the 1:00 p.m. EST would have been the ‘dud’ time. Live and learn!)

Adjust Your Behavior

The proof will be in the pudding of the April Challenge. We won’t have prizes for every challenge, so some of what I learned will be used in future challenges. For now, the things I will absolutely do: conduct a survey, find another young person to hire to help, have all pieces ready 72 hours before it goes live, and include a “party” element.

There you have it, my “After Action Review” — I’m glad that I did it, because it helped me to, in about 15 minutes, think through what I hoped to happen, what did happen, what I learned, and what I will do for the next challenge.

Ideas for you and after action events: ministry events, conferences you attend, home assignments, an annual review of your newsletters, and team meetings.

The conference I just attended was a much shorter review, but I’m thankful I did it. In particular, I’m glad I captured what I learned so I won’t make avoidable mistakes again! This week, spend a few minutes performing an After Action Review and get in the habit of performing them.

Photo by Fernando Jorge on Unsplash

Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Supporting cross-cultural work.




    • Amy Young

      You’re welcome! I hope that After Action Reviews can become more and more a part of what we all do :)!


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