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The After Action Review – From Preflection to Reflection

Peter Mello and I conducted a podcast with LT. Col. Jack Kelly a week ago and it was a great conversation. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, has served in three combat missions and is currently enrolled in a Fellowship for Senior Service College. Of course, there is a lot more and luckily we captured his thoughts and ideas on a podcast – so be on the lookout.

The military does a wonderful job of developing leadership.  It was a really fun conversation that revovled in many ways around the EIL Capacity of teamwork. However, Col. Kelly spoke on a topic that really stood out for me. Reflection.

In the military, they call the reflection process an “After Action Review.” I asked Col. Kelly to describe the level of importance he would put on that part of the activity (they will often do an activity, debreif/reflect, and then do the activity again). He suggested that in his estimation the After Action Review is where 40% of the learning occurs.

His assertion got me thinking.

I am not sure that those of us in leadership education truly give the “After Action” conversation enough time. If we do conduct a review, it is often based on a loose set of concepts that popped up during the activity and not linked back to concrete behaviors and concepts discussed in advance. Which brings me to pre-flection.

We often fail to pre-flect on the concepts, activities and behaviors men and women should be looking for, practicing or otherwise failing at. I beleieve this is an opportunity. By doing so, the After Action Review will be much more meaningful and rich.

About the author

Scott J. Allen Ph.D.

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