A brief review that turns failures on their head

Do you have a recent failure that keeps playing on your mind?

Perhaps it was a client conversation that didn’t go too well, or a sales opportunity you invested a lot of time in, then lost, or a negotiation where you feel you gave away too much.

Whatever the failure is, the chances are that at some level it’s undermining your confidence. As well as causing you unnecessary pain and frustration.

And, it’s not just failures you can learn from. Extracting learning from your most dramatic successes has enormous value, particularly if you take what you’ve learnt and build it into an improved mini-process for future application.

To do this, here’s something you might like to try. Based on military after action reviews this is an analytical tool which can be applied formally, or informally.

Although the tool works best when you predefine the outcome you want, it can also be used when you’ve had any disappointing experience.

The after action review

There are four parts covering what happened, why it happened, and how it can be improved in the future. This is how I guide the process with my clients:

  1. The experience questions
    What outcome do you need to think about?
    What did you expect to happen?
    What actually happened?
    Why were these different?
  2. The analysis questions
    What worked well?
    What was so-so?
    What didn’t work?
  3. The know-how question
    Knowing what you now know, what might you do differently in a similar situation?
  4. The action questions
    Now, from this analysis, what’s the mini-process (series of actions), that will best improve your outcomes in the future?

The most important part of this is process is, of course, application.

So, in closing, let me share what I heard a someone say at a recent conference, “We always do these after action reviews, but do we actually change things as a result of what we learned?”