Use Experience to Learn Systematically
June 24, 2013
Conduct rigorous after action reviews consistently and institutionalize lessons learned.
Just like military forces, companies and other types of organization should be disciplined about conducting after action reviews. Historically, this type of organizational learning started during the First World War. The image of swarms of soldiers going over the top to be slaughtered in ranks while in no mans land is mainly a myth. The belligerents soon realized the folly of frontal assaults against dug in positions, and started immediately to experiment with new tactics to maximize their efficiency while minimizing their casualties. This culminated with the German Armys invention of storm-trooper tactics. The same thing happened in other armies.
Companies must do the same thing. For instance, after a sales campaign everyone involved should be consulted to determine what went well and what went poorly. The lessons must then assessed for relevance and institutionalized to improve chances of success in the future. It is only when they are implemented as part of the system that the lessons learned become lessons learned.
Formulate and implement a rigorous and disciplined process of after action review and lessons learned. Ensure that valid lessons are institutionalized so that the entire organization can benefit from the trials, errors, and successes of others.
Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.
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