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  • Writer's pictureShawna Bruce

How do we make Lessons Identified - Lessons Learned?

I just finished completing a Work Action Plan for the Emergency Communications team at a major post-secondary institution. They invited me into their EOC during the early days of COVID-19 to help them streamline their processes and review their Emergency Communications Plan. We held a debrief (see that blog here) soon afterward. Then, I compiled a plan for them that brought together all of their previous "lessons identified" into one actionable document.

The key to any lesson identified is that it can only truly be learned if we change or add a process or procedure that fixes the gap. I've read many After Action Reviews that repeatedly make the same mistake because they haven't addressed the problem's root cause. Often with complex emergencies or disasters with multiple response agencies, it can be difficult to delegate ownership of an issue to be corrected. I don't believe this should be an acceptable excuse for an individual organization or company. We should always look to embrace a continuous improvement mindset as a process to support our learning.

To help better implement solutions to the gaps or to make lessons identified truly learned, consider the following approach:

1. Capture the gaps or lessons identified in one document (Excel works well).

2. Review them with the team and if possible, an outside set of eyes to find synergies in the gaps.

3. Categorize the gaps into an Excel Spreadsheet by "theme" – for example, are they specific to the EOC? The Alert System? Messaging?

4. Make your column headings for the following: Category, Issue, Recommendation, Tasked to/Owner, Due Date, Reviewed By, Completion Date, Notes or Comments.

5. Put each lesson identified in an appropriate category with the recommended solution and information as above.

6. Put the deadlines into a calendar with monthly prompts for those tasks to be completed on time.

7. Bring the team together regularly to review your crisis communication plan and start each meeting with a review on the progress of your Work Action Plan.

Every emergency, crisis or disaster brings together a list of how to do things better. It can be notebook full of bullet points, or a wall full of sticky notes. By capturing those opportunities for improvement in a structured, formal manner, you will be working towards closing the gaps that will support improved emergency response actions during your next crisis event. Don't forget this important step in the process.

For more information about how to complete a Work Action Plan, or, prepare your crisis communications team, public emergency information or conduct media interviews with virtual workshops please email us at

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