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Zahmoo in action-learning

How do we learn in action? How do we improve the effectiveness of what we do – particularly when working together with others?

(This theme is perhaps most for businesses and action-based communities, though it can be useful for family-storytelling too.)

One proven strategy is to set up what’s known as a ‘learning-loop’. In practice, much of it is based around stories, so Zahmoo can provide valuable support for this.

A popular technique here is the After Action Review. It’s simple, quick, and easy to do: it consists of just four questions, backed up by two rules. And it can be done anywhere, at any time, straight after any kind of action where there’s an opportunity to improve collective skills.

The four questions provide the structure for a brief four-part story, which we can store in Zahmoo:

  • What was supposed to happen?

What was the plan, the purpose of the action? What had each person intended to do?

  • What actually happened?

This is where our skills in story-listening will help: we encourage each person to describe their view of the story.

  • What was the source of the difference?

Again, use story to help ‘connect the dots’: to use another quote from the Anecdote website, “words are how we think, stories are how we link”.

  • What can we learn from this, to do differently next time?

This is the most important part, the ‘lessons-learned’ and commitment to change, identifying what each person can do to “do it differently next time”.

The two guiding rules are equally straightforward:

  • No blame!

The aim is to learn how to do things better – blaming won’t help anyone do that…

  • ‘Pin your stripes at the door’

In shared-action, each has their own responsibilities, but no-one is ‘more important’ than anyone else…

So using those questions, and following those two rules, capture the overall story of the action, the learnings, and those personal commitments to change. Store all of this in Zahmoo as text, audio or video, typically as a single story-item. The metadata should include appropriate tags to identify the type of action, and each person who’s made a ‘commitment to change’ within that After Action Review.

The real value comes not from the story alone, but from how we use that story to support shared-learning. For this, set up a regular process to scan through your Zahmoo story-bank and review those past actions and commitments.

— When planning a new action, what happened in similar past events? What can be learned from that? How might we change the plans, to do things better each time?

— For each person, what did they commit to change? Have they done so? What have they learnt and done towards supporting that change? What help do they need in making that happen?

For each of these, record those updates within Zahmoo as comments to the story.

Keep learning with Zahmoo!

Image credit: After Action Review by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region under a Creative Commons BY-2.0 licence.

January 18th, 2012 by Zahmoo
Filed in: For Business, For Community, How to, Recording
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.