Last week, I wrote about the After Action Review, which is an approach to making sure your COVID-19 response is effective. Pandemic or not, I strongly believe that every non-profit should conduct an AAR after every task or project because evaluation of the response is equally important as the response itself.

For many organizations, a natural reaction is to act quickly when a need arises. And, oftentimes, that is exactly right, especially as your work has likely been turned upside down as you moved quickly to ensure health and safety. However, as things are starting to settle a bit, I encourage you to use the Before Action Review. A Before Action Review helps help future responses to COVID-19 is effective because it forces your team to get clear on our outcomes before the work even begins.

The primary difference between the After Action Review and the Before Action Review is that (as the name suggests), a BAR is done before a program or project happens and the purpose is to think through the intended results of the program/project and how to apply lessons learned in order to ensure the intended results are accomplished.

Who should participate in a BAR?

In order to ensure all voices are heard and everyone is aligned on what the intended results are, every team member who will be involved in the project should attend the BAR. In addition, you may consider inviting teammates who have done similar work, as they may have insight into lessons learned that can be applied to your project.

When should teams conduct a BAR? 

The timing depends on the needs of your organization. Your team may need to start a project next week while other projects are scheduled to begin two months away. Ideally, you would conduct a BAR before a formal project plan is completed. You don’t want to run the risk of leaving out key steps that would come to light in the Before Action Review.

What time and resources do we need for a BAR?

The time required to conduct an BAR varies and depends on the project’s scope and could last anywhere from 1-2 hours to 30 minutes. Whether in person or virtual, you’ll need a place to capture your team’s reflections, whether that be on chart paper (be sure to take a photo when you’re done), in a Word/Google document or even in PowerPoint slides.

A Before Action Review is centered around five primary questions. 

  1. What are the intended results?
  2. What will that look like?
  3. What challenges might we encounter?
  4. What have we learned from similar situations?
  5. What will make us successful this time?

And don’t forget to schedule the After Action Review!

  1. When will we do an After Action Review (AAR)?

Need a template for your Before Action Review? Click here!

Has your organization ever used a BAR review? How did it work for you? Do you have questions about using the BAR? Send me a message and I’m happy to help!