Last week I saw a great example of live knowledge management – an “after action review” at the Georgetown Law School conference, Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business As Usual?. Jeffrey W. Carr – Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary led it. 

Jeff is a well-known GC who manages outside counsel efficiently and effectively and encourages other GCs to do the same. He was a conference panelist and participant. At the end of the conference, in an unscheduled session, he led an after action review.

“After action review” is a KM technique that captures key learning in real time so that participants can improve future similar actions. The US military excels at “AAR”. The technique has broad applicability though, as Jeff ably illustrated.

In a session lasting less than 10 minutes, Jeff led the audience in a review. He used an easel and flip chart, so a low-tech approach. He divided the flip chart vertically in two. On the left, he made a column for ‘what went well’ and on the right for ‘take a look at’. The idea is to get fast, brainstormed, uncensored audience comments on what worked well and what could be improved. He spent two minutes laying out simple ground rules (e.g., say what comes to mind, think of positives as well as negatives, as scribe he would write down whatever was said without judgment).

Then the audience got going with short comments. In just minutes Jeff filled several sheets with many helpful comments. The audience liked the exercise and the conference organizers were delighted with all the helpful feedback for use in planning the next one.

While anyone can perform an AAR, it’s clear that Jeff is good at it. And no surprise since he shared that he does such reviews every day in running the FMC law department. I wonder how many other GC regularly conduct AARs – and why so few do.

Participating in this review was a great illustration that KM need not be complicated, high tech, or ‘extra work’. We did spend a few minutes but no one viewed it as hard, boring, or besides the point. In fact, it revived the audience when we are all a bit flagging after two intense days.

I suspect Jeff made some converts. I am one of them.