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How to Make Evaluation Time Stress-free!

By Kristy Peterson

When it's annual review time, are you frustrated or overwhelmed by the task of remembering an employee's performance throughout the year? Do you ever feel that if you took notes on each task set within the year, it would be easier for you to summarize the evaluation? There is a way to make everyone's life a little easier when giving or receiving an evaluation: It's called the After Action Review, or "AAR."

The After Action Review (AAR) is a structured review or debrief process for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better, by participants and those responsible for a project or event. After-action reviews, in the formal sense, were developed originally by the U.S. Army , although less structured debriefs have existed since time immemorial. Formal AARs are used by all U.S. military services and by many other non-U.S. organizations. Their use has extended to business as a knowledge management (comprising the range of practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences ) tool and as a way to build a culture of accountability.

The AAR occurs within a cycle of establishing the leader's intent, planning, preparation, action, and review. An AAR is distinct in that it begins with a clear comparison of intended versus actual results achieved; its focus is on the participant's own action–that is, learning from the review is carried forward by the participant. Recommendations for others are not produced. AARs in larger operations can be cascaded in order to keep each level of the organization focused on its own performance within a particular event or project.

The mission of the After Action Review is to help make the annual evaluation process less tedious and stressful by ensuring that tasks, goals, and/or projects are recorded by streaming or detailing the task, as well as ensuring that all parties, i.e., supervisor and the employee, is aware of their performance throughout the year. If you follow the instructions to the AAR you will notice that as you refer back it will give you a clear and concise memory of their performance to evaluate them for review.

Instructions: A task/goal/project is presented by the supervisor along with a completion date. Before the completion date arrives, a meeting is scheduled for the purpose of reviewing the task. During the meeting, the components of the AAR are discussed.

The AAR comprises two components: (1) list three things that went well with the task/goal/project, and (2) list three things that need improvement (if any).

First, the supervisor will review the task that was originally set. The employee will discuss the task and the components of the Action Review. Finally, the supervisor will elaborate on the employee's accomplishment and will describe improvements needed (if any); the employee may comment (as necessary). Thus, the AAR strongly incorporates the value of collaboration .

The AAR process inspires and supports teamwork and unity in the workplace. You will be amazed at the outcome--including the positive atmosphere that will accrue to your work environment.

About the Author

Kristy Peterson, M.Ed., s erves as a tenured admission counselor and recruiter for Rush University. A community activist, Peterson is involved in diversity initiatives ran by the multicultural affairs committee at Rush and works closely with the multicultural affairs director on various projects as it relates to the University and Medical Center Building diversity. As a change agent for education, Peterson has mentored teenagers from high schools in preparing them for college and for what is needed to matriculate and proceed to higher education. She created Education Concepts, a program whose mission is to continuously provide resources, personal guidance, a professional educator track, and a strong mentorship component that will allow students to matriculate through pre- and post-high school to prepare them for quality higher education. Peterson is a Researcher for the School Finance Adequacy Longitudinal Field-Test Project for the Renaissance 2010 project under the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received a B.A. from DePaul University and a Master's in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, both in Educational Leadership.