The After Action Review

June 16, 2016By Carrie Huckeby

The Army has what they call an “after action review.” It is a conversation after a mission, event or exercise that enables the soldiers to analyze what happened, why it happened, what went well and what didn’t. Sounds like a great learning opportunity, doesn’t it? They do it to improve performance individually and collectively as a team.

The telecom industry can never be compared to what our armed forces do for each of us and our country, but we can certainly follow their example by doing our own after action review.

I don’t know about you, but one of the toughest things I find about my job is projecting the number of services that we will add, upgrade and churn. I look at historical data and percentages — but face it, our industry changes so much from year to year that even numbers from the year before are risky. I look for new areas to serve, the number of possible upgrades to increase ARPU, how many landlines will be disconnected and where OTT will take the video market. Projections are a challenging task for marketing.

So, here we are halfway into a new year and I am still studying the “successful” and the “not so successful” product projections from 2015. Sometimes we get close, sometimes we do better than projected (as we did in 2015 with broadband adds) and sometimes the CFO looks at me with that “did you use the crystal ball again” crease across the forehead. That’s when it is time for the after action discussion.

The Army’s key points in doing the review are 1) start the discussion immediately after the action, and 2) don’t leave anyone out. Makes sense. Marketing may be responsible for putting the numbers on paper, but if sales is hitting a wall due to the channel lineup, installation is a problem due to scheduling, the weather prevented drops from being buried, the local manufacturer just closed the doors, and a competitor launched a $14.95 offer for high-speed internet, it is certainly “all hands on deck” (sometimes other departments do not realize the role they play).

Whether we hit the mark or miss it, there is no time for pouting or big celebrations. I’m not doing my job if I don’t bring the team together and figure out why we as a company missed or accomplished our objective. It is said that you can’t improve what you don’t measure or track. So I am following the Army’s example and scheduling our own after action review.