Institutional Change

Routinize Reflection

Reflection can help your team and organization better understand strengths and weaknesses of both individuals and your full team. Incorporating reflective practice into your team or organization’s work flow can help improve performance overall. One easy way to incorporate reflection is to integrate a review process at the end of a project and include others from your organization not directly involved in the project. This is known as an “After Action Review” or “AAR.”

The After Action Review (AAR) is a structured way to capture the lessons learned from any project, with the intent of improving future performance. It is an opportunity for a group to reflect on a project, activity, event, or task so that they can do it better the next time. It can also be used mid-way through a project or strategy.


1-2 hours

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Skill Level


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Flip Chart, markers, paper, pens

Step 1

Before you do this activity, introduce the idea of an After Action Review at the start of project. Encourage your team to create a shared Google Doc to capture the lessons learned big or small as the project unfolds.

Remind the group that reflective practices require openness, transparency, courage, flexibility, and authenticity. The group’s notes will be helpful when the team does the After Action Review Meeting at the end of the project.

Step 2

Schedule the After Action Review Meeting for a few days after the project or event is complete. Ask everyone to review the shared document with their notes prior to the meeting.

Step 3

Create a quiet and calm time and space for the reflective practice session. Start with a brief check-in in which everyone shares a feeling or attitude in relation to the project’s closing. This could be something as simple as, “My favorite part of the project we just completed was x.”

Step 4

If this the first time your team is engaging in a reflective practice exercise, give a brief overview of reflective practice methods using resources in the Playbook. While there are many different approaches, frameworks, and facilitation techniques for reflection, the Gibbs Cycle might be especially useful.

Step 5

Set up some guidelines for meeting, such as only using “I” statements or avoiding using the session as a way to air complaints. Tell participants that the reflection process is not meant to judge success or failure, but rather encourage people to share important lessons.

Step 6

Introduce the reflection questions.  Write them on a flip chart, a slide, or handout.

  • What was the intent of the project?
  • What happened during the project?
  • What were my reactions?
  • What insights or conclusions can I draw from the experience?
  • What actions can I take based on what I learned?

Step 7

Ask participants to answer these questions by doing a “think and write.” With the pens and paper provided, offer the group 10 minutes to reflect and write in silence. Use a timer to keep track of time.

Step 8

When time is up, ask participants to organize into small groups (3-5 people) and share their reflections with each other. You can have them count off 1,2, and 3. Give the small groups 10-15  minutes to share their reflections with each other. Remind people to give each other equal air time.

Step 9

When time is up, ask that everyone rejoin the full group. Invite team members to share their reflections one-by-one, either going around the circle or popcorn style. Remind the group that this sharing is not a time for debate, but instead to share ideas that can inform progress moving forward. Use a flip chart to capture high level notes. Once everyone in the group has shared their insights, summarize the common themes.

Step 10

Spend five minutes reflecting on the process with the following questions before closing:

  • What was this process like for you?
  • How can we incorporate reflection on a regular basis?
  • What is the next project we should consider planning an AAR for?