After-Action Review

Source. After-Action Reviews (AARs) should ideally always be preceded by a Before-Action Review, but if you forgot, it's still worth doing the AAR.

BARs and AARs are meant to be conducted frequently, after small actions such as a single community event or even a canvassing shift. The point is to continually improve our processes in the midst of a campaign, rather than waiting until the end.


The primary goal of the AAR is to work together to consciously test out and refine a group’s thinking and actions in a timely way within the work itself, while there is still an opportunity to correct course and improve the outcomes of a project or initiative.


A few rules before jumping in:

  1. Participants: The AAR should involve everyone from the BAR. You are encouraged to invite the Historian as well. Other organizational leaders who did not participate in the activity may re- quest to participate in the AAR; if and how they participate should depend on the culture and level of trust in the group.

  2. Preparation: Notes from the BAR, measurable results from the action, and a means to take new notes. Relevant roles should be prepared to provide specific answers based on the success metrics outlined in the BAR.

  3. Speak in rounds: It's crucial to ensure every voice is included in the AAR because each participant made unique observations that may be crucial to learning.


Discuss, take notes on, and generate next-actions for each of the following.

1. What was our intended result?

If you conducted a BAR, this needn't take long. Questioning the intended result as stated in the BAR belongs in question 3.

2. What were our actual results?

Brief. Discussion of why should be saved for the next question. For now, just lay out the results on each measure of success.

3. What caused those results?

The bulk of your time should be spent here. Explore whatever answers come up, and keep asking "Why?" to get to the root.

4. What lessons should we take forward for next time?

Seek to identify 1-3 (or more) concrete, powerful insights about how the group can change its approach in the future.

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