Universal tools: The After action review
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
Everyone makes mistakes, so let's put them on the table and learn from them.
How does the After-Action Review (AAR) work in the Israel Air Force? I turned to Brig. Gen. (res.) Avishai Levi, former head of Intelligence and Reconnaissance in the IAF, to find out.
Levi explained that the AAR is one of the main learning engines in the service (and not only there). Here are my highlights from his comments:
The idea behind the AAR is to put all of the facts on the table and find out the real reasons for success and failure, and then to figure out what to improve.
A central principle behind the AAR is that everyone makes mistakes, including squadron commanders, and everyone knows that everyone makes mistakes. The idea is to eliminate obstacles, hierarchy, fear of higher rank, and excuses, and to get straight to the learning. To remove the fear that one might be harmed by pointing to one’s own mistakes.
Everyone knows that everyone makes mistakes.
In this context, the senior officer begins the AAR discussion, pointing out his own mistakes. That sends out the message that no one is hiding their errors.
Every formation examines itself at the end of the squadron's day. The formation checks whether it reached its objectives. The squadron commander conducts daily and weekly summaries, and formulates a weekly report.
Some flight cadets will not graduate and will not become pilots because they have not developed the openness needed for the AAR culture. Even when the service holds a sports day, it conducts an AAR afterwards – that's how deeply ingrained and fundamental this is to the air force's educational culture.
Here are the 3 AAR questions:
1. What happened?
2. Why did it happen?
3. What will we do differently tomorrow?
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