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How To Run An After Action Review Meeting

An After Action Review Meeting should be run by collectively discussing the project or event outcomes, analyzing whether goals were met, identifying areas for improvement, and creating an action plan for future endeavors.

An After Action Review (AAR) Meeting is a structured review or debriefing process for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better, by the participants and those responsible for the project or event. This type of meeting is vital for continuous learning and improvement. It involves gathering inputs on the performance standards, objectives, and efficiency of all team members. It’s commonly used in military, businesses, or project-based environments, particularly in instances where learning from successes or failures can significantly impact future performance.

What is the purpose of a After Action Review Meeting?

The purpose of conducting an after-action review meeting as a leader is to reflect on completed projects or events, evaluate their success and identify areas for improvement. By engaging team members in a constructive dialogue, leaders can gather valuable feedback, learn from past experiences, and make informed decisions to enhance future performance.

How To Run An After Action Review Meeting: Step-By-Step


Step 1: Preparation

Within this procedural step, participants must gain a comprehensive understanding of the task or project’s mission, objectives, and desired outcomes. This involves meticulous collection of all pertinent data, documents, and summaries explaining the current state of affairs. Participants should be armed and ready to engage in a potentially complex dialog, discussing the positive attributes, problematic elements, and potential improvements of the project to ensure a comprehensive approach to task or project execution.

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Step 2: Conduction of the meeting

The meeting commences at this stage, beginning with a thorough review of the project’s intended results and goals. Details, data, and observations from the project execution are openly presented and discussed. All participants are motivated to voice their opinions, highlighting successes and challenges experienced throughout the project.

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Step 3: Identification of Strengths and Weaknesses

In this stage, participants should delineate the stronger and weaker aspects witnessed during the project execution. The conversation should concentrate on the team’s performance, procedures employed, resource allocation, decision-making mechanisms, and any unforeseen obstacles that surfaced. This introspection aids in identifying areas for enhancement, spotlighting successful strategies, and preparing for future undertakings.


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Step 4: Learning from experiences

Once the strengths and weaknesses are identified, the team must pivot towards experiential learning. It’s crucial to dissect both the triumphs and pitfalls of the project, extracting valuable lessons from each. These insights then feed into strategizing for upcoming projects, refining the team’s approach and efficiency.

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Step 5: Actionable recommendation development

This is the crucial stage, where knowledge from the After Action Review is utilized to formulate actionable recommendations for upcoming projects. These suggestions should effectively address the recognized learning points by adhering to SMART criteria, meaning they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They should provide clear paths for improvement and strategic advancement in future endeavors.

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Step 6: Implementation

In the conclusive stage, the team incorporates the proposed recommendations into future project strategies. It’s vital that these changes are continually monitored and evaluated post-implementation, to confirm their efficacy and ascertain whether they are enhancing the squad’s performance in upcoming ventures, central to ongoing improvement and success.

Questions to ask as the leader of the meeting

1. What were the specific goals and objectives of the project/initiative?
Explanation: This question helps the leader assess whether the team clearly understood the purpose of the project and if they were aligned with the desired outcomes.

2. Did we achieve the intended goals and objectives?
Explanation: This question allows the leader to evaluate the overall success of the project and identify any gaps between the expected and actual results.

3. What went well during the project/initiative?
Explanation: This question encourages the team to highlight and acknowledge their accomplishments, fostering a positive and rewarding environment.

4. What were the key challenges or obstacles faced during the project/initiative?
Explanation: This question helps the leader identify the specific hurdles encountered during the project, enabling them to address and mitigate similar challenges in the future.

5. What lessons did we learn from the project/initiative?
Explanation: This question encourages reflection and emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement, as it allows the team to identify valuable insights for future projects.

6. Were there any mistakes or failures? If yes, what caused them?
Explanation: This question helps the leader understand the root causes behind any mistakes or failures, fostering a culture of accountability and learning from setbacks.

7. How well did the team collaborate and communicate throughout the project/initiative?
Explanation: This question assesses the effectiveness of teamwork and communication and helps identify any areas that need improvement to enhance future collaborations.

8. Were there any unexpected outcomes or results that deserve attention?
Explanation: This question helps the leader recognize any unforeseen results or unintended consequences, ensuring that all important aspects are considered for future planning.

9. Were the allocated resources (time, budget, personnel) sufficient and well-utilized?
Explanation: This question allows the leader to evaluate the adequacy of resource allocation and identify potential inefficiencies or areas where additional resources might be needed.

10. What recommendations or action steps can be taken to enhance future projects/initiatives?
Explanation: This question encourages the team to generate actionable insights and suggestions for improvement, ensuring continuous growth and development.

To prepare an effective after-action review (AAR) meeting agenda as a leader, start by clearly defining the objectives and desired outcomes. Include specific discussion points to focus on, such as identifying successes, analyzing challenges, and brainstorming areas for improvement. Allocate sufficient time for open dialogue and encourage active participation from team members to foster a productive and collaborative AAR session.

How To Prepare For A After Action Review Meeting
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During an after-action review meeting, it is important to discuss topics such as the overall goals and objectives, the success or failure of strategies implemented, the effectiveness of communication and teamwork, the identification of strengths and weaknesses, any obstacles faced, and potential areas for improvement in future projects.

See Our After Action Review Meeting Template
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Software tools to facilitate a After Action Review Meeting

Software helps leaders run after-action review meetings by providing a streamlined and efficient way to collect and analyze performance data. It allows leaders to easily track and evaluate progress, identify areas for improvement, and ensure accountability. With automated reporting and collaboration features, software simplifies the process, enabling leaders to make informed decisions and drive organizational success.

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To wrap things up, the After Action Review meeting is indeed a powerful tool in the business world to break down the performance of a project, with insights into what worked well and what didn’t. It promotes transparency, encourages improvement, and fosters a culture of continuous learning and progress within the team. To successfully run an AAR meeting, it’s crucial to establish a supportive environment, have a structured approach, involve everyone in the discussion, and create a detailed report to act upon the findings. Remember, an After Action Review isn’t about pointing fingers, but about fostering growth and learning from both successes and failures. Conducting these meetings efficiently and effectively will ultimately empower your team to achieve greater success in future endeavors.

Popular Questions

What is the purpose of an After Action Review Meeting?

The purpose of an After Action Review Meeting is to analyze a project or event after its completion to understand what happened, why it happened the way it did, and how performance can be improved in the future. It aims to identify key learnings which can improve future performance and decision-making.

When should an After Action Review Meeting be conducted?

An After Action Review Meeting should ideally be conducted immediately after the event or completion of a project when memories are fresh. However, it can be conducted anytime the team feels it is necessary to review performance and outcomes significantly.

Who should attend an After Action Review Meeting?

Everyone who was directly involved in the project should participate in the After Action Review Meeting. This typically includes the project team, project manager, stakeholders, and sometimes, customers or end-users can also be involved.

What are the typical components of an After Action Review Meeting?

A typical After Action Review Meeting discusses four main components 1) What did we set out to do? 2) What actually happened? 3) Why did it happen this way? 4) What can we do better next time? Any deviations, successes, surprises, and failures are discussed elaborately to gather insights.

How long should an After Action Review Meeting typically last?

The length of an After Action Review Meeting depends on the complexity of the project, the number of attendees, and the scope of the review. However, typically these meetings should not exceed two hours as maintaining focus and engagement for longer durations can be challenging.