Learn and Adjust As You Go

You bring the change team together for one of your regular meetings.

The change initiative has been underway for six months. You’ve been following the “rolling six month plan” that you developed together.

You have just completed a round of collecting progress data. And things are… just a bit off course. Things are clearly moving along, mostly in the right direction, but you’ve made quite the progress you were expecting.

So how can you use this team meeting to get things back on course?

First, a reality check.

This is normal! No initiative ever goes exactly according to plan.

These ‘deviations’ from plan (what actually happened, as opposed to what we expected to happen) are exactly what the team needs to shift from ‘Plan World” to “Real World” thinking.

The progress monitoring information now available to you is a source of valuable insight into how your “theory of change” compares to the “reality of change.” You have the opportunity to engage with this information, make sense of it, and draw lessons for how to adapt your plan for the next rolling six month plan.

One of the best ways of doing this as a team is to follow the After Action Review (AAR) process.

This is a powerful that allows teams to talk about the progress monitoring information, to take stock of different perspectives on why things are as they are, and to develop ideas for how to ITERATE the plan.

There are four question posed in the AAR, and it is best to take them in turn:

What was Supposed to Happen? 

  • This recap of the planned approach and expected outcomes is a good anchor on the team’s intention.

What Actually Happened?

  • Look at the information together. Keep the focus on facts, what did or did not took place, and hold analysis of reasons for the next step.

Why was there a Difference (between Plan and Reality)?

  • Explore reasons for why things succeeded, or not. Look beyond obvious, or simple, explanations.
  • It can be useful to ask ‘Why?’ several times to look deeper into a factor.

What will we do next time?

  • Identify practical ideas that take account of these insights to adapt what you have planned.
  • If you have ideas that can benefit other leaders and teams, share some context with them. Describe why the insight can help address organizational dynamics so they can implement it appropriately.


This tip is one of several that leaders can use when Cultivating Change.


Do you find resources like this useful?

Contact me to learn more about how I support leaders as they manage change and growth.

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