Ham Radio Clubs Need After Action Reviews

Ham radio is a hobby, of course. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others in making ham radio better. In this particular case, ham radio clubs have a series of activities they do with their members. Whether this activity is Field Day, providing public service communications to the community or providing storm spotting support, these activities show the ham radio hobby to others.

After the events, we talk about them, of course. Most clubs will spend a good deal of time talking about Field Day at their next club meeting, for example. Often, however, the information is anecdotal and not recorded. And our opportunity for improvement is lost. Why is it important to do an after action review?

Ham radio needs effective support to government agencies

Many clubs support Emergency Operations of their local governments. By providing an alternative communications channel, especially for health and welfare communications, ham radio provides a significant service. Yet, poorly run activities that never yield improvements hurt our perception and rightly so.

Ham radio needs effective public relations

When we go out in the community and provide communications support for parades, runs, walks and other public activities, we are placing the reputation of the hobby on the line. The people in these events are our neighbors — the very people we need supporting us for antenna placement, tower approvals and other support for our hobby. Doing a poor job in these activities hurts our reputation with the very people we need to help us.

Ham radio needs effective After Action Reviews

Let’s borrow an effective technique from the Army called the After Action Review. A formal process used after every patrol and mission, the After Action Review is used to improve what is done in the field and is a major reason for the effectiveness of the Army today. There are four questions to ask after the event. The answers are recorded and then the improvement suggestions are integrated into the next event. The questions are:

  1. What was expected to happen? We had goals for the event; a review of the goals.
  2. What actually occurred? We planned it one way and had certain goals; did the event go according to plan?
  3. What went well and why? We need to maximize what went well for the next time.
  4. What needs improvement and how? One can’t criticize alone; we need to explain how something can improve the next time and figure out how to build that into the plan for next time. Also note this is not “went wrong.” Wrong implies blame. But stuff always goes “wrong” in an event so the issue is focusing on improvement.

Using this more formal review technique after ham radio club events will go a long way to focusing the members on improvements without going the blame route. And building in the review and the improvements for next time help our cause with the people we need to support our hobby.

How has your club improved its activities through a review process?

[…] Not here. Nothing is done. Nothing looks like, from the discussion, that anything will get done anytime soon. You wonder if anyone learned anything from last year’s event. […]

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