One more charity fundraiser breakfast is in the books. It was a great time of fellowship and charity in helping the local food bank with donations earmarked for children. Our lodge hosted a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and French toast along with the usual milk, juice, and especially coffee. When we began setting up at 5:30am, the coffee just didn’t brew quickly enough. The usual suspects wandered in over the next ten minutes, and we had the lodge in good shape with the doors scheduled to open at seven.
Afterward, we cleaned and took stock of what was used, and I noticed Brother Joe scribbling on a pad of paper. I walked over and asked “Whatcha doing?” in a curious tone, to which he replied “taking notes”. To frame this a little better, Brother Joe and I spent almost two hours after the last AMD meeting discussing exactly this: The need for Masons to take notes and perform after-action reporting. I was very happy to see the follow-through as it had stayed in my mind too.
It doesn’t exist if it’s not written down. This isn’t necessarily true in all conditions, but when it comes to making things easier? Well, you know the answer to that. We get done with a function, pack it all away, maybe make a mental note that something needs refilling, then it’s on to the next project. There’s very little documentation passed down from project to project, and listing out lessons learned? It’s a habit that we should consider for our lodges and our future generations of Masons.
I propose we consider simply writing it down. Write notes. Write down what went well, what didn’t go well, and what suggestions you think might improve things next time. Put it in a binder by the Secretary’s desk. Better yet, make it digital, then organize it in a couple of different storage mediums. We don’t need to argue in lodge for 30 minutes about whether we could have used social media more efficiently, as that’s not what I’m writing about. In fact, I would ask that we never go down that bad path of bringing after-action reporting to the lodge except to say “the after-action report is completed” as part of any committee report.
What difference does an after-action report make? Plenty. Why reinvent the wheel each time we plan a spaghetti dinner, trivia night, family movie night, or even a charity breakfast? The notes from one can then be added to the next, and before you know it, there’s a self-improvement cycle created. We’re Masons. We like self-improvement, right? We keep the notes from each pancake breakfast, then one year it’s time to pass the torch to someone else to take lead on the committee. Maybe it’s time for a new Worshipful Master to do the planning. And there it is, a template to help make it successful. Again. Better than last year, and with a few added notes, it will be better next time too. What if we were to do that with all our activities?