After Action Reviews are a critical part of all business operational resilience programs but are often not being conducted. Failure to undertake an After Action Review shows a lack of commitment to improving their resilience capability which may impact people the environment and, ultimately, an organisation’s attractiveness to investors. We look at the importance of After Action Reviews, establish why they’re not happening, and what platforms can help.   

After Action Reviews, whether done after training or real incidents, are a fundamental part of any operational resilience program.  They identify areas of strength and areas for improvement. It is critical to dig into the preparation, response, recovery as well as stakeholder management aspects of the event to ensure regular improvement and adjustments to processes are applied, as required. Just as important in identifying areas of improvement is identifying areas of strength and building on them. 

These reviews capture the quantitative and qualitative part of how a response is managed, assess what priorities need to be addressed for future events, and measure the return to normal operations while establishing how the process feeds into a continuous improvement cycle. 

“It’s the discipline to make sure that you conduct reviews to continually improve your process,” says Jarrod Wilson, CEO of Dynamiq. “But it’s also ensuring that you assess all facets of it.” 

After Action Reviews enable a business to understand what ‘good’ looks like, set expectations, and measure the outcome against both. When conducted properly, findings from the review feed positively into an organisation’s culture. If teams know what the goals are and what they’re trying to achieve, then it increases levels of engagement. Furthermore, After Action Reviews also enable learnings to be shared with other parts of the business and improve the entire system. 

“If you think about in a mining environment where an incident might happen at a particular site level. How do you feed that back into the overall organisation, up the structure and across into other operating environments? Get it right and you’re actually getting that rising tide uplift,” adds Wilson. “And it’s the program level benefits where you see that force multiplier of impact. 

“With data, it’ll help you communicate across your business but also externally about what’s happened, why it happened, and whether you can avoid it happening again or just get better in your response.”

Why After Action Reviews must take place

Despite the multiple benefits, too many businesses are skipping After Action Reviews in an attempt to save time and return to normal operations as quickly as possible. 

Ultimately, this is down to the leadership. And one reason for avoiding After Action Reviews is that the leadership may be keen to keep criticisms and issues out of view. A failure to conduct an After Action Review enhances the likelihood of the same or similar incident occurring again as the issue wasn’t identified and the fix completed. Furthermore, a negative corporate culture can result in a lower ESG rating. 

After Action Reviews also give a voice to personnel at all levels of an organisation. Anyone involved in a crisis response should have input to build a collective picture across all perspectives of operations, as not everyone’s experience, expertise or focus will be the same. 

Teams must also have the confidence to speak honestly and constructively to each other, and the collective aim being to improve every aspect of business resilience. But if their voices are ignored, personnel will be less motivated to engage in future. While at the other end, if team members are listened to, it builds confidence and increases ownership of processes. 

“It’s more than just tinkering at the edge and just trying to do small improvements. It’s looking for things that can structurally change and feed into an organisation’s overall performance,” adds Wilson. 

“Everyone looks at that as a negative connotation. And if you’re doing the strategy side of it really well, what it actually uncovers is opportunities. The best businesses, particularly in those volatile times, all they see is opportunity.”

A platform for After Action Reviews

Dynamiq’s digital resilience platform EMQnet enables simplicity with After Action Reviews following a real-life event or a training exercise. The platform logs all actions and interactions between the teams and stakeholders in real-time, providing a complete audit trail and the context behind decision-making. 

“Even if an AAR is conducted immediately after the event, we’ve got the analytics there to be able to report on it,” says Adam Worsley, General Manager of Dynamiq. 

“An After Action Review is based on our Teams-Based Approach cycle, and is applied to the four commonly accepted questions required of an AAR,” adds Worsley. “These are: 1: What did you expect to happen as a result of the event? 2: What actually happened in the event? 3: What went well and why? 4: What could be improved and how?” 

Data from EMQnet can be used to verify why certain decisions were made at particular times, with a record of what information was available to personnel and when. From there, captured data can be fed back into the overall program improvement cycle, helping individuals improve their roles and enhance the response capability of a business. Importantly, consequence management allows the system to be more adaptive and agile, often picking up the pieces where risk management doesn’t.