Review Tools Anyone Can Use

Ïf we don't learn from history, we are bound to repeat it".  This was the comment someone today at a Values Conference I attended said quoting I believe George Santayana or George Bernard Shaw.  As we said last blog failure to review or learn is to fail.  So what works in our fast paced life?  How can we find the time to conduct a personal, team or organisational review when things are changing so quickly these days?  Review, like we said about planning, can become so arduous and time consuming, we devote too much doing it.  When I was in the flying business, we fighter pilots had an expression, "check six".  This was an acknowledgement that most of the risk from being shot down or surprised by an enemy aircraft was from our "6 O'clock" position, or from the rear.  To keep it simple for us pilots, the front of the airplane and direction of flight was the 12 O'çlock, so the rear must be the 6 O'çlock.  But it has to be just a quick glance, and not a stare.  To dwell too long on where you have been could be deadly as you can imagine from fast approaching aircraft, mountains or other hazards especially when flying at high speeds and low level.  Try driving your car looking in the rear view mirror!

So what type of review works?  My experiences detect three attributes to a successful review process -- Habitual, Balanced and Forward Looking.  Today we'll touch briefly on the first two.  By habitual I mean do it often enough, regular enough and long enough until it becomes a habit.  Then you won't need to remind yourself to do it, you'll just do it like brushing your teeth!  Simon Wilsher, my business partner for many years, dear friend and brother in Christ reinforced this in me when we were trying to sell Dale Carnegie Programs in the United Kingdom back in the 1980's.  We would plan every sales call, meeting and workshop and then habitually review how it went.  So the call, the meeting or workshop did not end when everyone left or we left.  In fact, he taught me that not to review every experience doomed us to failure, and he was right.  Whenever I short-changed my review, I would take the same mistake and repeat it in the next event.  How dumb is that? 

The second attribute is balanced review.  Most of us when we do review no doubt unless we have been trained differently begin the review by criticizing ourselves and our team, etc.  It is what comes naturally.  Why we'll save for another time, but chances are this will ring true for you.  So, how do we form a habit of reviewing in a balanced way?  One of the techniques we advocate and have instigated in every organisation I have worked in for the past 30 years is the 3 W's or W3.  The first 'W' is for What went well.  Not who did well, or what was OK, but what went well?  It reminds us to ask first of all to open our brains to look for the good in what we do, not the bad.  Beginning any review process by being optimistic produces a psychological and spiritual effect which transforms us, and our view of our performance.  In fact, on the IMPACT! program we run, we insist that for the first 3 sessions the only critique we allow when someone is stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something difficult for them or new to them is to only say what we like or admire about what the person has done.  How would that change our view of holding reviews if all we allowed was good, truthful, positive comments?  This blog is getting too long, so let's just stop there.  Why not this week, practice the first two attributes of a good review?  Be habitual and review every meeting or significant event, and then practise the first W.  Tell someone how well they did at something, and why.  Also, have a guess at the next two W's, and we'll check to see if you guessed right in a couple of weeks.