“Of all the mistakes I made while a student…, my single greatest regret, the one thing I dream of changing if I had the chance to do it all over again, would be to have the world simply stop after every case discussion in class. That’s right, stop — go deathly silent, and the only thing I was allowed to do during those few precious minutes was jot down whatever was ‘on my mind’ at the time…. Oh, who I’d BE today, had I taken the time to stop, reflect, and ‘make meaning’ out of each of those” case discussions.

— Prof. Scott Snook, HBS

After Action Reports (AARs)

Each After Action Report is an opportunity to improve your critical thinking skills.

The benefits of thinking about your thinking (this kind of critical thinking is known as engaging in metacognition) and revisiting your assumptions in the light of the insights from the Presentation and Q&A, include the following:

  • you can deepen your learning; and

  • you can refine your understanding of the implications of the business decisions and recommendations you have made with regard to the case; and

  • you can develop habits of mind that incorporate considering the the ethical implications of your assumptions, decisions, and recommendations before you finalize them.

It might seem like hard work, but the use of After Action Reports is fully aligned with the Science of Learning, and it is an essential part of any transformative learning experience.

Note: Every Participant receives a copy of Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools and an HBS reading on Ethical Reasoning prior to the beginning of every MDI.TOKYO Program or Course.

After Action Report.

Directions: In Learning Sessions that focus on Case Analysis & Discussion, at the end of the Q&A, each person takes a few minutes to jot down whatever is most important to her or him. Next, each Learning Team huddles up and reviews Key Takeways, Critical Thinking, and Ethical Reasoning as it applies to the case and using the format below. The results of this team discussion are then summarized and submitted online to the course LMS.

After Action Report Format

I. Key Takeaways

What were the most important ideas, concepts, insights, theories, or frameworks that you learned from this case? What was most important to you and each member of your team?

II. Critical Thinking

A.) How did you specify the key issue (i.e. the ‘managerial dilemma’ or the ‘problem to be solved’) in the case?

B.) Was your specification of the key issue correct? Yes | No

  • If “No”, then what is the correct specification of the managerial dilemma?

C.) In what ways could your specification of the Key Issue be improved?

D.) Are there any assumptions in your case that were overturned by the presentation and/or class discussion?

  • If yes, then please describe the original assumption(s), the fault(s), and the correction that surfaced.

E.) Was your recommendation in Section III of your Case Analysis Memo the best (objectively) recommendation for this case?

  • If “No”, then how could your recommendation be improved?

Note: II. E.) is a very important part of AAR Section II.

  • In Sessions that you offered the best recommendation in your memo, congratulations!
  • But, in Sessions that you offered a sub-optimal recommendation in your memo but you demonstrated that you understood not only that your recommendation was sub-optimal but also that you know how to optimize it, double congratulations… you just experienced a transformative learning experience (a.k.a. a perspective transformation)!

III. Ethical Reasoning

Note: Some weeks you will not see any ethical reasoning issues. But, by repeatedly considering your ethical reasoning you are developing habits of mind that make considering ethical implications before you make a business decision… automatic. The world always needs more leaders who make a habit of thinking and reasoning ethically. If you want to build a better world for your children and for future generations, you need to make ethical reasoning a habit of your mind.

A. Quick Tests for Ethics

1. Visibility – testing for the consequences of your assumptions, decisions and recommendations:

a. Would I be comfortable if the results and the impacts of my recommendation went viral on the internet and everyone knew that I was the person responsible?

2. Generality/Universalizability – testing for “bright lines”:

a. Would I be comfortable if every company in a similar situation did this, and I was impacted by the results?

3. Suitability – testing for the value of community (or Corporate Social Responsibility):

a. How would my assumptions, decisions and recommendations be viewed by a member of the community impacted by the results?

4. Legacy – testing for long-term commitments:

a. Is this how I’d like my leadership (or our organization) to be remembered? Or, am I simply trying to achieve short-term gains (or a performance bonus) at the expense of the future of the organization, the community, or the environment?

Section II Critical Thinking was inspired by Hess, E. D. (2014). Learn or die: using science to build a leading-edge learning organization. Columbia University Press.
Section III Ethical Reasoning was adapted from Sucher, S. J. & Hsieh, N.H., (2011). A Framework for Ethical Reasoning. Harvard Business School Case, (610-050).