By Micha Van Waesberghe from the Knowledge and Learning Department at the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
Knowledge sharing and learning from our experience is already a natural part of our lives. We do it at home, with our friends and family, or sitting around a campfire sharing stories. We do it because it works.
Now, when you think about transferring the same behavior and value to a professional or organizational context, somehow things get a lot more complicated. Sure, we still all learn and informal networks exist all over the place, but there aren’t necessarily a lot of teams or organizations out there that can truly claim they systematically maximize the value of their cumulative knowledge potential.
The main reasons? First, a lack of familiarity, and therefore trust, between people, which is a key ingredient of effective knowledge sharing between peers. Second, the quality and relevance of the knowledge being shared. For this, you need clear objectives, speak the same language, and use media and formats for sharing that make sense to everyone involved, which is not as easy as it sounds. Third, and perhaps foremost, the cost and a (perceived) lack of time: We are all busy professionals and time is our most precious resource. Who has time to share when the next pressing deadline already looms? This is not to say knowledge sharing can’t be cost-effective, just that it needs to add real value to be worth the investment of time and resources.
While these are considerable challenges for organizations trying to learn from their experience, individual project teams interested in learning on the go typically should only have to really contend with the last obstacle. To overcome it, the process for knowledge sharing needs to be easy and efficient, and its products and results need to add real value as part of the way people work.
That is where the In Action Review comes in.
1What is the In Action Review?
It is a quick and easy project management/learning tool that will to stimulate open communication and continuous improvement within your team in the execution of a project.
2OK, I am on projects all the time, so when should I use the In Action Review?
After key phases or moments in a project, after important decisions/meetings, or after any other significant event of the project: Something didn’t work 100%? Something unexpected happened? Call for an In Action Review!
3Why is it so easy to learn and do an In Action Review?
- It doesn’t require any prior planning; it is just a conversation with your team members to respond to four questions.
- Documenting the team’s answers is optional.
- Its objectives are concrete and practical: The focus is on reaching a common understanding about what happened and to agree on concrete actions to take right away as a team within the project.
- You can do it in no more than 15-20 minutes!
4What are the four questions of an In Action Review?
The four questions of the In Action Review, and a basic template for recording its results.
With the first question, the team discusses what the plan and its expected results were. Then, what actually happened, what were all the different small and large things that resulted from the execution of that plan as it happened?
With the third question, the team identifies the actions and events that were the principal factors in causing differences between the plan and its results, and explores possible causes for them. The last question focuses on how to use what the team just learned going forward so that successes can be repeated and risks avoided or mitigated –on the same project.
In an In Action Review, open and frank discussion between all team members is key. Everyone should participate as equals –no hierarchy and no formal (external) facilitation. It is not about evaluation or critiques; it’s about learning as a team and learning on the go to improve going forward!
The In Action Review has already been applied successfully by teams in a wide range of organizations and companies. Try this methodology and share your experience in the comments section below!