How to Run an AAR
The most important part of many operations is figuring out what the hell actually happened. No matter how well or poorly a battle goes, there is an absolute wealth of knowledge to be gained from going through afterwards and getting different perspectives on events.
There’s 3 main ways of doing AARs. Hotwashes, Leader Review, and Write-Ups.
Hotwashes are when everybody involved gets together, usually on voice, for a moderated discussion. They can be enormously valuable because every perspective is brought to bear. Even the most incredible noob might bring something priceless to the discussion. They work best when done IMMEDIATELY after the op ends. Fleet breaks up, people dock and start talking.
The big things to cover are What went well, What didn’t go well, and what people would improve the next time out. For this to be successful the people involved have to take the activity seriously, and be able to communicate openly, honestly and without malice.
Openly means being able to say what they need to say without fear of repercussion.
Honestly means being objective about strengths and weaknesses. Admitting to what happened and not what “Should” have happened.
Without Malice means not taking things to a personal level.
By openly talking through what people think went well and what needed to be improved and how it can be improved while the events in question are still fresh in people’s memory you can get a whole lot of fairly rough information. You can get insights that people may not remember, or think to voice up later, and you get people feel like they are more involved in their experience.
However the discussion does need to be moderated, personal attacks cannot be tolerated and once a point has been made, it has been made and it’s time to move on. If a hotwash isn’t moderated or the people doing it don’t take it seriously for whatever reason than it loses a lot of its effectiveness.
Leader Review is a meeting between key leaders, whether it’s FC and sub FCs, FCs and CEOs, FCs CEOs, Scouts, or other designated personnel to have a serious going over of the events. Again the participants need to be open, honest and without malice, and while they may lose some input from lower-level members, they should gain a great deal of focus. This type of AAR tends to focus more on leadership actions and usually takes place at a greater remove in time than a hotwash. These reviews are usually less fractious and easier to control than a hotwash as well. They don’t tend to take as long and there’s less need to “mine for gold” to get the good information, but there is also the possibility of losing good input with the smaller pool of people involved.
A write-up is a written report on the actions taken from the point of view of the leader doing the writing. Who does them is up to alliance rules, although typically it’s the lead FC and anyone else who took over for a significant length of time. Additionally other FCs who were in the fleet but not taking over might comment on the write-up or do their own.
This write up has the same requirements as the others with regards to how open the author must be. In addition the writer must focus on things that went well, that need to be reinforced so they happen again, and things that went poorly and steps that can be taken to improve on it the next time around. The advantage you get with a write-up is a far deeper look from the view of one person, and they can control the discussion initially, and get all their points off, if done on forums it can be replied to, again with a complete write up. However if there are disagreements on the facts, as can happen, or the writeup is less than completely intellectually honest, the whole process is derailed at the beginning.
My Own Rules/Philosophies
The only name I will name in an AAR is my own. There’s two reasons for this: #1 I’ll happily admit my own mistakes, and no one else needs their name dragged through the mud unless they want to give a mea culpa. #2 Multiple people might have made a mistake, or thought they made a mistake and “People need to be very careful to avoid shooting at non primaries” is something everyone can think “Shit… was I shooting a secondary? Better check that” as opposed to “Hong Weiloh was shooting secondaries before primaries were down” in which case everyone NOT named Hong Weiloh is going to A: Ignore the comment and B: make fun of Hong. This is counter-productive. Additionally “We did a good job shifting damage to secondaries and getting damage on them fast to beat reps” is a lot better than “Shootin’ Star was on the ball calling targets and getting damage switched to beat their reps” because it’s an issue where everyone had a say, and while pumping up the target caller’s ego is good, getting everyone a bit of credit is better.
At least two of these actions should take place. I prefer a hotwash and a write-up. It gives both the highest and lowest levels a say, and makes sure that issues aren’t missed and that any action that takes place gets proper coverage. In addition using a hotwash gives people a voice, and a reason to support the conclusions and changes that might come about because of the AAR process.
Do it fast. Hotwashes should be done right after, Leader Review and Write-Up no later than 48 hours later. Don’t let the lessons cool, strike while the iron is hot.
Don’t squash people because you think that what they say is stupid. It might be an issue people need to think about. Don’t let anyone else call out a “stupid” idea either. The idea is to encourage input.
In public discussions keep comments short. Think then talk. In forums or written formats go ahead and be verbose. You don’t want to TL/DR (or really TL Didn’t Think) when it comes to improving your game.