from after-action to in-action review

July 23, 2007

I did the opening keynote at KM Australia this morning. A good sized audience and great feedback. They also have a meeting place where I have been settled for the day catching up on email and RSS feeds, and having lots and lots of interesting conversations. Its a good idea, a lot of people find it difficult to ask questions after a keynote, but here they join in on conversations, see that you are open to anyone and join in. Its those exchanges that are amongst the most valuable.

One of the strong points I made is that we need to move away from after-action reviews, written up as case studies. Such an approach encourages retrospective coherence, the benefits of hindsight. The resultant cases studies may impress management but they are too far down the context specific codification review to have any sustainable impact. Instead we need (or so I think) to aim for continuous capture of fragmented narrative based learning, captured as people learn, not a few days later. The access to that material is then also in-action, assembling and blending the fragments in the context of need.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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