After-action session is a term mostly used in the military. I never worked in military but sometimes get inspiration from it for project management.
There are many approaches to the after-action. Some call it “stock-taking”, others “lessons learned session”. It depends on the action and team members. Here is a simple and effective recent after-action session with a project team I managed.
It had three parts:
1. What do you think happened?: Each team member shared what they thought happened from the spot they where back then. No filters applied. We just shared perceptions, feelings, anything that crossed the mind during the “operation”.
2. What did you actually see happening?: This questions allowed us to bring in the facts, sort of eye witness testimonials. As we are located in different countries, it was important to recreate the entire chain of events in the field office and at headquarters.
3. Lessons learned: what can we take on board for next action. We got three key lessons for us to apply on next actions.
I invited team members to the after-action reflection spontaneously, when I was on mission to the country they are located in. It can also be a planned session with time given for preparation, recollection and reflection. It is up to the project manager and depends on the complexity of the action and its consequnces for the project. I did it informally, over team lunch. It can as well happen in the team office. It depends on the degree of formality confortable for team members concerned.