After Action Review Template
This template describes the 4 sections of the traditional After Action Review (AAR) format. It should be understood within the broader framework of conducting After Action Reviews.
The AAR consists of 4 main sections, seeking to answer these questions, which are explained in further detail below:
- What did we set out to do?
- What actually happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What are we going to do next time?
According to Army guidelines, roughly 25% of the time should be devoted to the first two questions, 25% to the third, and 50% to the last question.
What did we set out to do?
(Alternatively, this can be phrased as “What was planned?”)
- Review the intent of the mission/project.
- Identify key tasks and assignments.
- List the desired “End State” (what does “Right” look like?).
Helpful questions to ask here include:
- What was the purpose and objectives?
- Who was the audience?
- What was the initial timeline?
- Who was involved?
- What outcomes and outputs were intended?
- What products were to be produced?
- What facilitators and barriers were expected?
What actually happened?
- Establish the facts.
- Pool multiple perspectives to build a shared picture of what happened.
Why did it happen?
- Analysis of cause and effect.
- Focus on WHAT, not WHO.
- Provide progressive refinement for drawing out explanations of what occurred.
What are we going to do next time?
- Correct Weaknesses - What can be done to improve the things that didn’t go well this time? It is particularly important that participants focus on the things they can fix here, rather than external forces outside their control.
- Sustain/Maintain Strengths - Identify areas where groups are performing well and should stay the course. Identifying this is important so that you may commit to upholding these standards, and/or apply those same principles again in a similar situation in the future.