Post-Mortem vs. After Action Review


Post-Mortems are good, but After Action Reviews are better!

Reflecting and learning from failed projects can help, but there is as much to learn from our successes as from our failures. After Action Reviews, an important discipline employed by military planners, helps them learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly. After a major engagement, soldiers and officers meet to make a rigorous assessment of the battle just fought—what went wrong and right—and especially what can be learned to improve performance in similar situations in the future. It’s the military’s way of linking strategy and action.

Consider the following:

  • When was the last time you learned from a project that went particularly well? Or one that ended just alright?
  • How do you codify your learnings? Are your insights available for others to search and use or do you keep them to yourself?
  • There’s no need to wait until the end of a project… why not have a brief AAR every 30 days during a six month effort?
  • Consider celebrating more than the successful projects, instead celebrate the techniques that made success possible.


ActionBrett Pinegar