Active Reviewing Tips 7.4 Economical Reviewing
~ 1 ~ EDITOR: When not to review
Keen as I am about reviewing, I do recognise that there are
occasions where reviewing is a bad idea. There are times when
reviewing might be unnecessary, insensitive or counterproductive.
Maybe you should not start or continue a review...
* When people don't want to review.
* When reviewing has already happened without you.
* When a review would be the same as the last one.
* When the agreed finish time arrives.
* When a break or change of mood is needed before participants
are likely to benefit from a review.
* When a review would bring a premature end to a special moment
of wonder, flow or celebration.
* When participants are stalling for time - preferring the relative
safety of a review to making a decision and taking action.
On the other hand, I have been impressed by people's commitment
to reviewing in the most adverse situations. For example, after
military operations, 'After Action Reviews' have happened in the
back of bumpy trucks. In some situations quick learning is critical -
whether it is a matter of life or death or of catching the 'aha'
moment or noticing the exception that leads to a breakthrough.
Reviewing is often associated with 'retreats' or long walks where
you can create the time and space for deep reflection. But
reviewing also belongs in everyday practice and is too important to
put off for some perfect situation.
Yes, there are occasions when reviewing is inappropriate or is
unlikely to be of benefit. That's when to back off and postpone it.
But these occasions are far outweighed by missed opportunities for
reviewing. Reviews that are 'timely', 'little and often', 'short and
sweet' or even 'quick and dirty' can generate far more learning than
those long reviews in country retreats where time stands still.
ABOUT THIS ISSUE
The main article in this edition of Active Reviewing Tips takes a look
at economical reviewing. The 17 principles and techniques apply to
learning at work as well to learning on courses or in the classroom.
The second article on 'making learning sticky' is really an extension
of 'economical reviewing'. The 15 exercises are designed to increase
the value and use of what is learned. They are methods that grow
the value of learning by anticipating opportunities for its transfer.
The 'economical' theme is continued in the bookshop section. I was
recently surprised to find many of my favourite books for sale at
prices well below their cover price. And I'd like to pass on the news!
There have been some changes and additions to the Training
Calendar since last month. I am tempted to continue the
'economical' theme here too.
~ 2 ~ TIPS ARTICLE: Economical Reviewing
Using the minimum of time or resources necessary for effectiveness.
Looking at experience again in order to learn.
Using the minimum of time or resources necessary for effective
Reviewing saves money. Just think of the consequences of not
learning from experience - for the individual and for their
organisation. BP claims to save millions through regular After Action
Reviews. Can anyone afford not to review?
According to Nancy Dixon (author of 'Common Knowledge: How
Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know'):
Yes, reviewing is often the first casualty when the pressure is on.
This is as true in the world of learning as it is in the world of work.
But why are the worlds of working and learning separated in the
What is commonly known as a 'learning cycle' should really be called
a 'working-and-learning cycle' because the cycle demonstrates how
doing and learning are integral parts of the same process.
Working without learning might produce a short term gain (more
work gets done) but it is guaranteed to produce a long term loss
(as old practices become redundant).
That's the background. Now my tips for economical reviewing.
Ensure that people
* know why they are reviewing
* have high expectations of reviewing
* know what good reviews are like, and
* know how to contribute to good reviews.
Train people in (or remind people about) the skills they need to get
the most out of reviewing. These include: recording, listening and
summarising as well as the skills needed for any particular reviewing
Do this regularly so that reviews continually improve. Involve
participants in reviewing the process of reviewing. Develop and
customise ways of reviewing that work best for these participants
and their priorities.
VARY THE PACE
No single pace will suit everyone or every stage of a review. Varying
the pace allows you to speed through what can be done quickly
and to slow down for what cannot be rushed.
Concentrate on doing one thing well. Next time shine the spotlight
on another topic or perspective. Avoid shallow and speedy all-
encompassing reviews in which nobody learns anything new. That
would be very uneconomical.
Time and energy is easily wasted when the reviewing process is
chaotic with participants at different stages. Use a model such as
de Bono's Six Thinking Hats or the Active Reviewing Cycle so that
everyone knows how best to participate at different stages of the
LOOK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Allow exceptions to your structure. People may stay silent because
they cannot fit what they want to say into your structure. Silence
may save time in the short term, but could be very costly in the
long run. [This particular balancing act between structure and
exceptions in reviewing will be explored in a future article about
playing the joker - the wildcard - in reviewing.]
TRAIN PARTICIPANTS TO BE FACILITATORS
Perhaps you can have too many chiefs, but you can never have too
many facilitators. The more facilitating capacity you have in a
group, the fewer are the blocks to communication, learning and
progress. If you (and they) expect all the facilitation to come from
one central person, you will be overloaded and the review will be
less productive. (Very uneconomical.)
This both uses and develops facilitation skills within the group.
USE TIME-SAVING TECHNIQUES
A classic time-saver is 'Silent Statements' (and the variations I call
'Positions' and 'Horseshoe'). With enough floor space and a well-
defined spectrum, everyone can instantly show everyone else
exactly where they stand on an issue. This is more refined than
voting, much quicker than a round, and provides a snapshot of
opinion that would take considerably longer (if ever achieved) in a
USE PAIRS TO HELP PEOPLE CLARIFY AND SUMMARISE THEIR IDEAS
A process such as 'Finding the Bones' helps people turn their
paragraph into a sentence into a phrase and a word before their
thoughts are shared with the wider group. This helps people to get
to the point more quickly - very economical. The audience are also
far more attentive when they know the speaker has put careful
thought into a concise statement.
GIVE SUFFICIENT PREPARATION TIME
For example: after asking a question to the whole group, ask for
two minutes silence before anyone replies. The effect and outcome
is similar to 'Finding the Bones' (above) but it is a much quicker
If you want people to consider more than one question at a time
give them questionnaires. Ask them to interview each other and/or
record their answers to the questions. This is useful preparation for
a focused groups discussion.
USE GUIDED REFLECTION
If done well, Guided Reflection can produce deeper reflection than
interviews - partly because the pace can be much slower, partly
because any answers are unspoken. The quality of sharing following
a well-pitched guided reflection can be quite extraordinary -
depending on the nature of the script and on what you ask to be
Before a review (or part of a review) writing by participants helps
them to crystallise thoughts and/or to clarify what they want to
give or get. During a review, writing helps people to share ideas. For
example, everyone's statement can be put on display. After a
review, writing helps to remind people about what they have
learned or promised (to themselves or to others). Timely use of
writing helps to sharpen the whole process of reviewing.
If you write on a board or easel while others are talking it can be
distracting. If you write when there is a pause, you are slowing
down the review process. It is far better to encourage participants
to make good quality notes. If you are heavy user of flip charts (or
similar) take a critical look at the paper you are using. Wasted
paper is also wasted time and is a sign of uneconomical reviewing.
TALK LESS, EXCEPT WHEN FACILITATING
The primary process in learning from experience is just that:
learning from experience. The facilitator's role is to assist this
primary process. Guided Reflection is an example of where the
facilitator assists this primary process. The telling of a well chosen
story might also assist reflection. But if facilitating slips into
lecturing, however good the lecture, the process is based on a
different theory of learning.
Working and learning depend on each other. We can work as we
learn and we can learn as we work - whether the work is 'real work'
or 'practice work' such as a training exercise.
Reviews often focus on the 'doing' part - trying to make the 'doing'
more effective, efficient, economical and even more enjoyable. But
what about the reviews themselves being more effective, efficient,
economical and even more enjoyable?
If people regard reviewing as a waste of time or as something that
keeps them away from more important or more interesting things,
then somehow, sometime you need to answer these objections and
demonstrate that reviewing is time well spent and is too important
to miss out or postpone.
ARTICLES (about economical reviewing)
25 techniques each taking 1, 2, 5, 10 or 20 minutes.
HOW TO REVIEW A LOT IN A SHORT TIME
Creative Thinking about End of Course Reviews
COMPARATIVE BOOK REVIEW
A comparative review of 'Learning to Fly' and 'Common Knowledge':
TECHNIQUES (for economical reviewing)
FINDING THE BONES
For learning about other techniques mentioned in the above article,
use the search box at <http://reviewing.co.uk/>
~ 3 ~ TRANSFER OF LEARNING: Making Learning Sticky
Imagine a sticky seed blowing around in the wind looking for fertile
soil in which to grow. The chances of the seed finding suitable soil
are greater if both the seed and the soil are 'sticky'. In other words,
to maximise the transfer of learning, the learner needs to seek out
opportunities for using as well as recognising the potential value of
what they have learned. Stickiness facilitates connection making.
Without connection there is no transfer. Plans create connections -
and so does stickiness.
Here are 15 exercises that will help to make learning sticky. They
are ideas to choose from. Be selective!
MAKING THE SEED STICKY
1. Recognise its value
List 5 reasons why this learning is important for you or for others.
2. Consider its potential uses
List 5 ways in which you could use this learning without adapting it.
3. Imagine other possibilities
List 5 different ways in which the learning could be used if
4. Identify any internal barriers to transfer
List 5 things you could unlearn in order to help you use this
5. Explore the boundaries
List 5 situations in which you would be unlikely to use this learning
(If your answer is 'none', that's OK!)
MAKING THE SOIL STICKY
1. Spread the learning.
Create understanding. List 5 people who may benefit from learning
something like this and see if they want to.
2. Find, create and use support.
List 5 people who would readily support you in your efforts to use
3. Find stony ground and try to understand it.
List 5 people who will be skeptical or lukewarm until they have seen
4. Prepare the ground.
List 5 factors within your control that would make you more likely to
use this learning.
5. Create the climate.
List 5 factors you can influence (but which are outside your direct
control) that would make you more likely to use this learning
'WHAT IFS' - FOR EVEN STICKER LEARNING
1. What if you could use this learning wherever you wanted? Where
would you use it and why?
2. What if you discovered that this learning was unique to you?
What would you do?
3. What if you were given 4 weeks to focus solely on using this
learning for the benefit of your team or organisation? Describe the
beginning and end of this special project.
4. What if you could wave a magic wand and pass your learning on
to everyone else in your team or organisation? What would be the
result for you and the organisation?
5. What if you could run short courses to train others in what you
have learned. Whom could you attract and how would you promote
it? What benefits would you advertise?
STICKY LEARNING IN PERSPECTIVE
The point with sticky learning is not to exhaustively list all
possibilities but to help people appreciate that there is a bigger
world of possibilities than the more obvious ones. It is the habit of
conducting 'what if' exercises (or similar) that gets people into a
creative frame of mind. It helps people realise that flexible and
creative thinking are essential for transfer especially far transfer.
Having people thinking of themselves as 'creators not consumers'
and as ACTIVE LEARNERS both DURING and AFTER the course
makes it more likely that transfer (near and far) will happen.
MORE ABOUT TRANSFER
Articles and workshops on the Transfer of Learning:
For my article 'How Transfer Happens' (and an explanation of 'near'
and 'far' transfer) send a blank email to:
~ 4 ~ BOOKS OF THE MONTH: What's under £5?
While browsing through the Active Learning Bookshop I couldn't help
noticing that some excellent titles are now being offered (new or
used) way below their real value. The most glaring example was
copies of Cornell's classic Sharing Nature with Children being sold for
just 1 cent. Economical or what?
You will find the best offers conveniently arranged on a single page
divided into seven topics. Here is a taster of what you will find on
GAMES & ACTIVITIES
Playfair: Everybody's Guide to Noncompetitive Play
The Atlas of Experience (the inspiration for Metaphor Maps)
GROUPS & MEETINGS
Zen of Groups: A Handbook for People Meeting With a Purpose
The Red Book of Groups: And How to Lead Them Better
LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT
Principle-centered Leadership (Stephen R. Covey)
Leadership Skills (John Adair)
Sharing Nature with Children
Sharing Nature with Children 2
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
The Little Book of Confidence
THINKING & LEARNING
How to Mind Map
Six Thinking Hats
Teach Your Child How to Think
Wise Up: the Challenge of Lifelong Learning
Here is the short cut to ALL the books under £5
(at the time of 'going to press'):
I don't ask for donations or payments for Active Reviewing Tips, but
I do ask you to visit the Active Learning Bookshop. Reviews,
recommendations and customers are always welcome!
~ 5 ~ TRAINING CALENDAR
ENGLAND: Roger Greenaway
REVIEWING SKILLS AND TOOLS FOR TRAINERS
Wednesday 20th - Thursday 21st October, 2004
at Log Heights, Ripley Castle, North Yorkshire
Extend and refresh your facilitation techniques in this critical area.
Help people to get full value from their learning experiences.
Log Heights has since evolved into
- same castle, same Shirley, more twist
SCOTLAND: Dave Key and Mary-Jayne Rust
WILDERNESS ECOTHERAPY COURSE with Footprint Education
Sunday 10th - Saturday 16th October, 2004
Learn about engaging with the healing power of outdoor spaces at
Doune Bay Lodge (accessible only by boat or on foot) on the
Knoydart peninsular, on Scotland's wild and rugged west coast.
GERMANY: Johan Hovelynck
FACILITATION - What Makes Your Program Truly Experiential?
2 day workshop for advanced practitioners with Johan Hovelynck
November 22nd (18:00) - 24th (17:00), 2004 at Altenkirchen,
Westerwald, Germany. Details:
or write to Bernd Rademachers at <mailto:email@example.com>
NETHERLANDS: Roger Greenaway
REVIEWING SKILLS FOR EXPERIENTIAL TRAINERS
Friday 4th - Saturday 5th February 2005
in the Netherlands (conducted in English)
This is Roger's fourth open workshop in the Netherlands.
FUTURE EVENTS: Roger Greenaway
Open events in which I will be providing training in reviewing and
related subjects: Hong Kong, Denmark, South Africa, Norway. Dates
and venues will be announced via this newsletter and on my
website at <http://reviewing.co.uk/_news.htm>
The most economical way of receiving training in reviewing skills is
to get a group of people together with this common interest and
get in touch. If you prefer to do the calculations in advance see
<http://reviewing.co.uk/profile.htm#cli> - or just ask.
~ 6 ~ WHAT'S NEW at http://reviewing.co.uk
Working and Playing with Different Age Groups
is a new 'shelf' in the Active Learning Bookshop
Books for under £5
is another new 'shelf' in the Active Learning Bookshop
~ 7 ~ QUOTE: Why reviewing matters?
''If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how
incapable must Man be of learning from experience.''
George Bernard Shaw
~ 8 ~ EXTRA: AAR ... After Action Review (again)
This quotation appeared in a recent issue of Active Reviewing Tips,
but here it is again as it is such a good fit with the subject of
''AARs are a simple way for individuals and teams to learn
immediately, from both successes and failures ... the format is very
simple and quick ... In an open and honest meeting, usually no
longer than twenty minutes, each participant in the event answers
four simple questions:
1) What was supposed to happen?
2) What actually happened?
3) Why were there differences?
4) What did we learn?
... Our experience was that the simplicity of the process and the
low time requirements were key to its acceptance.''
Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell in 'Learning to Fly' (2001:78)
~ 9 ~ INTERACTIVE: Readers' Questions
This newsletter is more interactive than it may seem. Most issues
are created in response to questions from readers like you. Your
own questions, requests, ideas, feedback, etc. will help to make
this newsletter more responsive to the people who read it - people
like you who scroll all the way down to item 9!
Have your say. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
And/or write to a friend and tell them what they are missing.
(Thank you, if you do.)
Are you a fan of economical reviewing? Do you like using the minimum of time or resources necessary for effective reviewing? If so, please share your ideas.
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