Learning from our actions and building a plan to improve for the future is the corner stone of a successful organization. As we progress towards the end of the CORVID-19 crisis in many areas it is time to start thinking about how to improve our response for the future.
Building an After Action Report or After Action Review and Improvement Plan is a structured, widely accepted method of evaluating the response taken during an event. Ideally, AAR/IPs should be a regular part of the operational cycle and would be completed after any significant planned or unplanned event. There are a wide number of different formats and though processes behind how to build a successful AAR/IP, but they all follow the same basic theory:
- What should we be good at? What is expected of us? What is our end goal?
- How did we do at reaching those expectations and goals?
- How can we improve for next time? Who is responsible? What is the time line we expect for the improvement to be complete?
Explaining how do building an effective AAR/IP could take up a 40 hour long class itself, however we will highlight some steps you can take now to help prepare yourself.
What To Be Doing Now
Most agencies are still heavily engaged in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Many of are facing staffing shortages, schedule changes, safety precautions, EOC activations, increases in call volume, and other challenges that they never expected to face. It is still important to be forward thinking despite these pressures and be thinking about how to improve in the future.
1 – Identify What Your Agency Should Be Good At Doing
Ask yourself what are your agencies Core Competencies, the mission statement, or incident objectives and write them down. Basically what should you be doing right as an organization. Think about what you expect of yourselves, what your partners expect from you and what you expect of them, and what your customers expect you to provide.
Don’t focus on whether you have met those expectations just yet, that comes after the event is over. The idea is to identify the benchmarks you will use to measure your agencies response.
Be ready to ask the hard questions, it is counter productive to avoid looking at what was done poorly. Use the SMART acronym to define fair objectives and write them down. Objectives should be action statements; complete sentences that define the purpose, timeline, and goal of an activity. If your stuck on think about the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?
2 – Document And Take Notes
Make notes about how you are meeting those areas you have identified. Ideally develop an Evaluation Guideline to keep your notes honest, consistent, and defined.
It is essential to keep accurate, detailed notes during a long term even like COVID-19 poses. Without strong documentation and note taking your team will inevitably miss something in the After Action Meeting. Use text notes, diagrams, and photographs to document what happened during the event.
3 – Plan To Improve
It may be hard to imagine returning to normal after dealing with COVID-19, and no one wants to have to deal with this again, but the reality is both are true and your organization needs to be ready. If you have not already begin to get the buy in from your leadership to develop an AAR/IP program.
Plan on creating a formal AAR/IP document to use as a self evaluation tool and roadmap for the future. Prepare to hold a formal After Action Meeting with all of the involved stakeholders to develop your improvement plan in a way that is realistic and attainable.
Resources To Help You
We have gathered a large number of resources to help you prepare your AAR/IP at this site. We have collected guides, templates, papers, and real AAR/Ip’s for you to review and use as a roadmap