At this time of year you may be spending quite a bit of time deciding whether to buy this pair of slippers for Uncle George or that pair of slippers. What’s the difference? They’re both slippers, both the right size, they might even both be a similar price. But probably one pair will be better than the other. Warmer, a more comfortable fit, longer-lasting. As Marks & Spencer might say, “They’re not just slippers, they’re M&S slippers”.

The same could be said of business services too.  It’s something we’ve been thinking about recently, particularly in relation to iTS AAR, our specialist After Action Review (AAR) consultancy that is going from strength to strength. What is it that makes iTS AAR special, and why is it so much in demand from clients across the UK, Europe and beyond?

After all, After Action Review is a well-established learning process first developed by the US military, rooted in the concept of learning from experience. There are decades of evidence and research that demonstrate that the AAR process can be transformative for organisations, teams and individuals. Now used widely in the armed forces, emergency services and in businesses across the world, it is also one of four learning response tools (LTRs) recommended in the new NHS Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF).

The simplicity and complexity of AAR

The AAR process is seemingly very simple: ask a group of people (who have all been part of something that has happened – good or bad) four questions:

  • What was expected?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What can we learn?

Yes, the four-question process appears straightforward, but what sits behind it is a richly complex learning journey. The truth is, there is an art and a science to a successful AAR which can only be achieved with the expertise of an AAR Conductor (the person facilitating the discussion).

This quote from one of our clients neatly summarises the inherent challenge and huge benefits of AAR:

“There is so much that can be learned from mistakes and failure, but to do so without blame, with the sole intention of learning and improving, can be challenging.  AAR is a great tool for teams to reflect on what has happened, to achieve collective awareness of actions, and learn for the future.” 

The iTS AAR difference

AAR is not a Learning Response Tool that can just be picked up and used by the uninitiated. For AAR to fulfil its potential as, arguably, the most effective LRT there is, people need to be trained and the process needs to be embedded and championed, so that AAR becomes an everyday habit that transforms an organisation, its culture and its people.

There are three areas where the iTS AAR difference is most evident:

  • Training expertise

The iTS AAR team are among the most experienced AAR specialists in the world. Not only have they used AAR ‘in the field’ in their own careers, but they have introduced many hundreds of others to it, training clients across the UK and internationally. Our iTS AAR Conductor training programme continues to prove its efficacy in numerous commercial and public sector organisations and can be delivered remotely or in-person.

  • Integration

After the initial training period there needs to be a concerted effort to integrate and embed new behaviours in an organisation and its people. Committing to AAR requires a sustained culture change which is achieved through our on-going support of those we have trained, and via planned rollouts of training sessions and implementation of AAR sessions across teams and territories. iTS AAR works alongside its clients for the long term and provides access to a comprehensive online library of AAR materials, tools and training aids too.

  • ME, US and IT

Readers familiar with iTS Leadership will be aware of the three pillars of performance that we focus on: ME (the individual), US (the team) and IT (the organisation). When we introduce the AAR process we use this same approach, ensuring that all three pillars are supported. The feedback we receive from clients very much echoes this:

“This iTS AAR course was the best training I’ve been on in a very long time.”

“For the company I see AAR helping us to learn and promote collaborative working. For me personally, it will help me to develop in my current role but also allow me to understand more about the wider organisation and contribute on a broader scale.”

The ripple effect

We see time and again how, for our clients, working with the iTS AAR team to introduce After Action Review creates a ripple effect in their organisation. Whether they choose to do a one-off AAR to ‘dip their toe in’, or instigate a company-wide training programme, everyone sees the benefits cascade through the business.

We’ll leave it to the general manager of a Fortune 200 pharmaceutical company to articulate the effect:

“Since the AAR, there has been significant improvement in our employee engagement score.  The team has gone from having a below benchmark VOA (Voice of Associate) result to one that reflects very high levels of team engagement. Why? Because we are closer than ever, more supportive of each other and have greater trust between us.  As a result, productivity is boosted and enjoyment at work enhanced. From my perspective the AAR was invaluable. The unique methodology allows us to learn collectively from past experiences and build for future success together.”

Please get in touch to find out how iTS AAR could help you to go on a transformational AAR learning journey.

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