After action review (AAR)

An After Action Review (AAR) is a structured review or de-brief process for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better, by the participants and those responsible for the project or event
Wikipedia.

As an OSS consultant it has been common to move from one OSS project to the next for clients over the years. It is interesting that the knowledge gained on one project usually isn’t systematically recorded, analysed and systematised. The only mechanism to support this is often the people who bring their own IP (Intellectual Property) from project to project.

An example of this was when I helped the monopoly Telco in a South-East Asian country to install their first-ever OSS and Organisation-A was the vendor on that project. They were integrating a popular off-the-shelf alarm management product on behalf of the telco.

Fast forward a few years and I was now working for Organisation-A directly, delivering to a different tier-one Telco in another Australasian country. Organisation-A was again implementing the same off-the-shelf alarm management product and in a very similar manner to my earlier project. On project 2 I suggested that we re-use the hard work done on project 1 but was met with derision. Project 1 was delivered by a different unit of Organisation A so they had no intention of sharing knowledge. I was stunned.

But the point of this post is to highlight the way that military organisations gain great insights by using the AAR approach after each mission. This approach could definitely be carried across into the world of OSS. As a whole, the industry could definitely be better at transferring knowledge from project to project, not just at an individual level but at an organisation or industry level.

To apply this AAR tool, simply ask yourself and the team:

  • What was planned?
  • What actually occurred? (facts not judgments)
  • What went well and why?
  • What can be improved and how?
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