Why After-Action Reviews Are Important

It’s never possible to over-prepare, because it’s always possible to be taken by surprise. In these cases, the best course of action is to learn from what occurred and try to plan for the next, similar event. After-action reviews turn unexpected scenarios into learning opportunities.

Originally developed by the U.S. Army, after-action reviews are now common in the private sector. They are used extensively by many businesses across a broad spectrum of industries, including utilities. These knowledge-management exercises can help a utility debrief after an event and provide invaluable information for the future. Read on as we dig deeper into the benefits of why an after-action review is important for utilities.

They facilitate prompt reflection

An after-action review ideally takes place right after the action or the unexpected event. This limits the amount of forgotten details and ensures that the team can answer relevant questions in more detail. For utilities, that event could be an unexpected outage or disruption in service. Key questions to ask during the review are:

  • What was expected to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • What went well and why?
  • What can be improved and how?
Related: Accountability Is Everyone’s Responsibility

They let you hear from those on the front lines

After-action reviews are most effective when the review team includes a diverse mix of employees. Leadership might drive these conversations, but deep-dive details can only come from team members on the front lines. An after-action review provides a platform for open, collaborative discussion across departments.

Related: 3 Keys to Lineworker Safety

They inform future decisions

Paraphrasing the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, the great Winston Churchill once wrote: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Neither Santayana nor Churchill could have predicted modern utility emergencies, but the point still stands: the output of an after-action review can greatly affect the future.

Think back to our disruption of service example and what could come out of that after-action review. For instance, the team finds that overgrown vegetation interfered with electrical transmission, slowing down crew members attempting to fix the problem. As a result, they implement a new preventive maintenance plan which includes more frequent tree trimming.

Related: Proactive Equipment Checks: A Lifeline for Your Business

They help companies avoid the status quo

Without knowledge management exercises, it can be easy for a utility to slip into status quo mode and proceed with few operational changes. However, an after-action review can provide the type of documentation sometimes needed to stimulate organizational change. After-action reviews are also likely to spark creativity, empowering employees to give fresh thought to what may be a historically recurring problem.

Related: Why Your Utility Needs A Contingency Plan

After-action reviews send the right message

A successful after-action review involves conducting the exercise and carrying out the resulting recommendations.  But, these steps are impossible without communication. Communicating the outcome of an after-action review, both internally and externally, sends a message that the utility cares about making things right.

Related: Encourage a Utility-Wide Safety Culture

Imagine you are a customer and that your utility company took the time to analyze a recent disruption in service. They have diagnosed what went wrong, developed strategies to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and shared this knowledge with you. This is a powerful gesture that can increase customer confidence while setting up the utility for future success.

Related: Three Tips for Managing Third-Party Contractors

Utility Partners of America has experts that can lead after-action reviews

With more than two decades of experience in partnering with utilities and energy cooperatives, Utility Partners of America (UPA) has extensive knowledge of how best to utilize after-action reviews. We also provide a variety of services for utilities, ranging from meter services to inspection, maintenance, and more. To learn how we can improve your utility’s operations, contact us today.