Before-Action Review

Source. Before-Action Reviews (BARs) should always be followed up with an After-Action Review.

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 BAR is to make sure that everyone is on the same page with regard to the goal of the collaboration, thinking actively about how to achieve that goal, and taking past lessons into account. It's also the time to ensure everyone knows there will be an AAR to reflect on results.

Try to go beyond the plan that exists on paper and ask “what else will it take?” and “what else can we try?”


A few rules before jumping in:

  1. Participants: The BAR should involve everyone responsible for some part of the outcome, and only those people. 3-7 participants is typically ideal, though it can work with as many as 12. If larger than that, break into groups based on role.

  2. Preparation: Any relevant planning documents, goals, or metrics that exist should be available to all participants. Otherwise, just be sure your ready to take notes. A flipchart or digital whiteboard will help.

  3. Speak in rounds: It's crucial to ensure every voice is included in the BAR, because each participant may have information that is crucial to success. Every participant should speak on each question.


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

1. What is our intended result?

If the goal is already specified, simply review it. This doesn't need to take long.

2. How will we measure success?

The more concrete, the better.

3. What challenges will we face?

Get real. Uncomfortable truths are encouraged.

4. What did we learn last time?

If you've done this before, identify at least one concrete thing you can do to improve.

5. What do we think will make us successful this time?

Frame this as scientific hypotheses: if we change X, Y will improve.

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