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Stop the Pandumbic

Do not waste this crisis

Never let a crisis go to waste.
If you Google the author of that quote, you get several possibilities, including Winston Churchill, Rahm Emanuel, and even Myron F. Weiner, a geriatric psychiatrist.
Either way, you don’t need a doctor to know that as a leader, you’ve been through the wringer this year.
For most leaders, 2020 was learning by doing, learning as you go.  If you’ve made it this far, congratulations.  Job well done.

So Now What?
As in, so now what did you learn?
Don’t let this crisis go to waste.
I know you’re still running hard, with numerous stakeholders needing your time.
But what did you learn from the pandemic?

Take an hour or two with your team to find out.

The After-Action Review
Developed by the US military, the After-Action Review (AAR) is a structured process to ensure you increase the likelihood of repeating what makes you successful and avoiding what doesn’t.
In short, it analyzes what happened, what was supposed to happen, and why what happened happened.
It is a process designed to advance knowledge; it does not judge success or failure.
It is forward looking, with a focus on what can be learned to ensure future success in similar or comparable circumstances.
Ultimately, it results in a concrete action plan.

A Simple Template
Here’s a simple 4-step template for an AAR:
1) What was supposed to happen?
Example: We were to develop a COVID-19 response plan within 3 days.

2) What actually happened?
Examples:  We were able to do so in only 1.  /  We weren’t able to do so until 7 days later.

3) Why did it happen?  (i.e., Why were we able to achieve our objective?  Why were we not able to achieve our objective?)

4) What did we learn?  (i.e., What will we sustain?  What will we improve?)

Recommendations for Effective Implementation
The process needs to be safe for everyone.  No blame.  I repeat, the process needs to be safe.
Give participants advance notice of which areas you want to focus on.  Don’t have them show up “cold” to the in-person or virtual meeting.
If you want to tackle multiple issues, do so in shorter separate meetings.  Don’t hold an 8-hour marathon session.
Document what you learn.
Incorporate what you learn into processes that you implement or memorialize now.
As the leader, don’t dominate the discussion.  Let the group do the majority of the work.

For a more involved “how-to” guide, including useful checklists, here’s a robust resource from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

After All the Time and Energy You’ve Spent, Avoid the Pandumbic
Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since all this began.
Don’t let your success go to waste.
Take the time now to ensure your team and others benefit from this year’s journey and what you’ve all learned from it.