Since it is not possible to predict every detail, every project plan, not just a software development one, needs a feedback loop.

The After Action Review is such feedback link, that was missing in the outline of basic software development process. The third component.

The first two key components are:

Originally it was employer by US Army to adapt to a fast-changing tactics of its opponents. Lately it was incorporated in all army actions and found its way into business.

In simplest form it consists just of four questions, that could be explored either individually or team-wide. These questions are:

  1. What was the goal?
  2. What are the actual results?
  3. Why there is a difference? (Or “Why we were successful?” if no difference)
  4. What decisions we can make basing on (3)?

In software development we apply them at every measurable activity step:

  • day plan and results
  • week plan and results
  • milestone
  • financial goals

We were surprised how quickly the AAR highlights the open problems in the software project and in the software development process and how quckly and easily we were able to come up with useful and implementable decisions. Decisions that do work and improve the value we bring to a Customer.

It is such simple and powerful tool that not much could be written about it. You have to experience it: try doing daily AAR for at least of couple a weeks.

Apply the AAR and the decisions made rigirously and the world would turn around you.

More information about After Action Review:

  • Wikipedia
  • US Army’s Leader’s Guide to After-Action Reviews
  • Knowledge Management Library,