Strategy Launch Review
The U.S. Army introduced the After-Action Review (AAR) to create a process for continuous learning from initiatives. Developed by the National Training Center in 1981, the AAR’s original use in the army’s Opposing Force (OPFOR) has expanded to most military services in one form or another.5 The AAR provides a checkpoint for cultivating the knowledge and insights gained from initiatives by addressing four points:6
- 1. What were our intended results?
- 2. What were our actual results?
- 3. What caused our results?
- 4. What will we sustain or improve?
We can modify this concept to improve our strategy efforts in nonmilitary organizations as well. Prior to launching a new strategic initiative, have the team leader conduct a Before Strategy Launch Review (BSLR). The BSLR should be a facilitated strategy conversation around the following three questions:
- 1. What is the goal of the initiative?
- 2. What is the strategic approach being used to achieve this goal?
- 3. What are the key challenges to successful implementation of the initiative and how will we address them?
Once the strategy initiative has been completed, modified, or discontinued, the After Strategy Launch Review (ASLR) should take place. The ASLR answers three questions:
- 1. What happened?
- 2. How or why did it happen?
- 3. What did we learn from it?
The leader should then take the group’s input on these questions and summarize the results of the Strategy Launch Initiative. These summaries should include both the positive—what went right and what we did well—and the negative—what areas need improvement. The results of each ASLR should be kept together and reviewed quarterly to generate recommendations on how to improve the overall strategy initiative process. What’s working? What’s not working? Are there any trends or patterns? Are people educated on and engaged in the process? The ASLR not only provides an opportunity to improve the activities that drive the implementation of strategic initiatives, but it also enables managers to continually improve the thinking that goes into the development of their strategic initiatives in the first place.