The Power of Nameless and Rankless Debriefing
By Jim Murphy
executives on Madison Avenue often use an interesting document called
a Call Report. A Call Report (or a Conference Report) is the official
summary of an important meeting between a client and the agency, and
it details the next steps that have to be taken, as well as the
various approvals and changes that were agreed to in the meeting. I
say it’s interesting because it’s a fairly hard thing to write.
Most client-agency meetings are attended by people from different
disciplines – the media department, the research department, the
creative department, the production department, and so on. Now,
because the media people talk a cost-per-thousand language that would
put the creative group to sleep, and the research department talks
gibberish, the Call Report takes a deft hand and a little political
Report is an outstanding way to summarize a meeting. You have the
minutes of the meeting, some important notes, key decisions recorded,
and a roadmap of what to do next. It’s all there in black-and-white.
But step back. What’s really going on here? It may be an excellent
way to summarize a meeting, but by what process does a Call Report get created? More to the point – how do
you end a meeting? Do you have someone issue a Call Report, or
do you end a meeting by having an equally important meeting called a
like Call Reports can easily lull a company into a false sense of
accomplishment. In every meeting there are treacherous currents,
shifting moods, moments when things come perilously close to going
wrong, if not crashing altogether. In this day and age you can’t
improve execution by saying “mission accomplished”. You need to
examine the meeting itself and make certain you learn as much from
what did or did not happen as you do from the outcomes. Tell me how
that mission was accomplished. Tell me where things started to break
down and what the team did to correct it. Have you ever watched a duck
on a pond? They look calm and serene, don’t they?
Well, I can tell you now...underneath the water those little
feet are paddling furiously. Tell me what’s going on under the
surface. Debrief meetings. Get into what went on, who did what, how
the process worked. Trust me...I’ve never attended a Debrief that
didn’t uncover a correctable mistake or identify a moment when
someone on the team stepped over a dollar to pick up a dime.
One of the
most powerful tools the fighter pilot community has given corporate America
is called the Debrief. A
Debrief takes place immediately after an important meeting and is
attended by all of those who attended the original meeting. It is
designed to tap into the individual perspectives of the team members
and examine the meeting from every possible angle, ultimately reaching
group consensus on the Lessons Learned. Conducted properly, it
accelerates the learning experiences of the company and provides a
valuable feedback loop that continuously improves corporate execution.
Time. A Fighter Pilot Debrief is a disciplined event. Before we
even fly the Mission, we determine the location, start time, and end time of the Debrief.
In a squadron or in business, the only way Debriefing works is to
embrace this high standard of discipline.
Fighter Pilot Debrief is “Nameless and Rankless”. This means
anyone can bring up any issue without fear of reprimand. The Debrief
leader first sets the Tone by admitting his or her mistakes and then
opening himself up to the criticism of the rest of the team. This
creates the kind of open communication that gets to the important
issues of the Mission and avoids the blame game so common in organizations today.
Versus Objectives. Now that the team is communicating openly,
it’s time to dive into the Execution of the Mission. Simply put – how did the team’s actual Execution compare to
Execution. In the previous step, we discussed the profit and loss
of the Mission – the successes as well as the failures. In this step, we determine
the direct Cause of the profits and losses – “How it happened”.
We then dive deeper to determine their Root Causes – “Why it
Learned. This is where we take the recurring Root Causes from the
previous step and turn them into critical Lessons Learned that can be
used in future mission planning. The Lessons Learned from the Mission provide vital feedback to senior leaders who are monitoring the
Execution of corporate strategy.
Lessons Learned. This is how the Debrief accelerates the
experience of the entire organization. As Fighter Pilots, we want our
learning experiences transferred throughout our organization as
quickly as possible to save others from the mistakes that could cost
them their life. For this reason, we capture the results of our
Debrief (our Lessons Learned) in a database that will then be
referenced by Fighter Pilots throughout our organization as they plan
Note. We always end a Debrief on a high note. After dissecting the
Mission, admitting errors and underscoring successes, we end the Debrief with
something positive. Regardless of the Mission
outcome, it is important to keep morale high going forward.
Read other articles and learn more about
Jim “Murph” Murphy.
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