The first question often asked in an After Action Review or AAR (learning whilst doing) exercise is “what was supposed to happen?” Alternatives might include “what was planned?” or “what were the desired outcomes?” or “what were the objectives of the activity?”
Whatever the ‘format’ of the first question, the reason it (and other AAR follow-up questions) is asked is to position the AAR as a learning event – providing those concerned with the opportunity and time to reflect (on recent ‘action’); to consider what has been learnt thus far; and to identify actions to take to support continuous improvement.
When this first/opening question is asked, for example, of a project team or group of people engaged in a business activity, the facilitator or person leading the AAR might (not unreasonably?) expect the question asked to elicit responses or answers from which the project team or group can share their understanding about what was actually supposed to happen.
More often than not, in my experience, answers are forthcoming – but not always from all of those in the room. One of the reasons for this is that, as individuals, we have different preferences for learning styles and ways in which we prefer to pay attention to information and make decisions. An example can be illustrated through the lens of the Extraversion and Introversion dimensions of the personality type indicator MBTI.
Individuals who have a preference for Extraversion are said to get their energy from the external environment – preferring to talk through activities and problems and learning best through doing or discussing with others. Individuals with a preference for Introversion are said get their energy from their internal world – preferring to think through activities and problems and learning best by reflection, inner thoughts and ideas.
In the context of an AAR, responses to the first/opening “what was supposed to happen?” question might initially come from those with a preference for Extraversion; whilst those with a preference for Introversion will be thinking through their responses to the question. Unless the leader or facilitator of the AAR provides the time, space and opportunity for those with this preference to gather and then share their thoughts, they may go unnoticed/unsaid.
For more information about the links between MBTI and Knowledge Management, check out my blog post why Jung still matters and matters to KM. Those leading or facilitating AARs and interested in finding further information about ways to create the right environment and conditions conducive to supporting learning before, whilst and after doing activities, may find my blog post about the role of a facilitator helpful.