Debrief CLEARly – How to conduct an After Action Review

People will get more out of an effectively conducted after-action review (AAR) than the experience itself.   An AAR is a professional discussion of a training or operational event that focuses on identifying what happened, why it happened and ways to improve.  They provide us an opportunity to contextualize an experience and facilitate learning.  Without them participants will learn, but do they learn what the organization needs them to?

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Here are the 4 steps to conduct an AAR:

1. Is everyone OK?

The Instructor should receive a verbal and visual acknowledgment (thumbs up).

2. What was supposed to happen?

The instructor should understand the participant’s understanding of what was supposed to happen.

3. What did happen – CLEARly*?

  • Communication
  • Legal/Legitimate
  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  • Adaptive Tactics
  • Risk Management

4. What should we Sustain / Improve?

The Instructor should ask the participants, “How do you see yourself performing this task in the future under similar conditions?”


*Developed in conjunction John Bostain from Command Presence.