There’s been a lot of hullabaloo in recent years over the “after-action review.” The general concept is that after you’ve weathered a major event, you reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of how your company performed. The goal is to improve your performance in similar events in the future.
Some businesses expand on this concept by performing Year-End Reviews. The goal is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of how your business performed over the last year and to incorporate this information into how you do business moving forward.
The most important thing to note about Year-End Reviews is that, for them to be effective, you must be completely honest with yourself. In other words, take off the kid gloves.. If you truly want your business to survive and thrive, you must be brutally, intellectually honest when completing your Year-End Review.
Now on to the mechanics. First, think back to any major events that occurred last year. Did you gain any significant new clients? Fail to meet a major production goal? Experience a higher-than-average employee turnover rate? Make a list of all the major events for the year. Be sure to include all core aspects of your business, including your employees, your strategy, and your production or output.
Next, for each event, identify and collect all available concrete evidence that will help you evaluate how your business performed for that event. For example, in reviewing your employee turnover rate, you might gather applications, hiring paperwork, employee evaluations, and termination paperwork. Look for trends that will help you identify weaknesses and strengths. Do the same for each major event. Don’t forget that a valuable source of input may not be in writing at all; solicit input from customers, employees, and business partners.
Finally, review each event and its accompanying documents and evaluate how your business responded to each. This is where the honesty comes in. If your business didn’t do well in an area, brainstorm about how you might improve. Even if your business did do well, brainstorm about how you might build on that to improve even further.
Incorporate what you learn from your Year-End Review into your business plan for the upcoming year. Treat the Year-End Review like spring cleaning for your house. Do it every year, and it will help move your business to the next level.