Twenty five percent is not a small number, definitely not a marginal gain! It’s a huge uplift, achieved through the application of a single team habit. The use of After Action Reviews.
After Action Reviews, (AAR), sometimes referred to as Retrospectives in the language of agile planning are a post-mortem review of team performance designed to generate feedback and aid collective learning. With their roots in the military, AARs are increasingly being used in medicine, business and other organizational settings.
The 25% figure in the headline comes from a 2013 Meta-analysis of the performance benefits of using an AAR. The research reviewed 46 studies, encompassing 546 teams, and found an average 25% performance effect compared with the control conditions. But despite the potential gains, AARs in reality are not widely used, even in the military and even when they are, there are significant challenges to getting them right.
The ability to adapt and to learn requires a feedback loop. This maybe instinctive to an individual but collectively, for a team, this is much harder. The truth is that most teams don’t learn how to evolve retrospective observations into improved future performance. Shared experience is no guarantee of shared wisdom. Plotted on a graph, an average team’s performance typically has peaks and troughs, which often represent key individuals moving on, taking their expertise with them and leaving the team struggling to fill a knowledge or skills gap.
From running and observing hundreds of AARs here are some of the challenges to reaping the (very significant) potential rewards of doing this well.
 Tannenbaum, S. I., & Cerasoli, C. P. (2013). Do team and individual debriefs enhance performance? A meta-analysis. Human Factors, 55,231–245
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