Tony Chilvers
Industry Expert

Tony Chilvers is a marketing and communications specialist with experience in multiple industries in South Africa and Australia

Tony Chilvers
Industry Expert

Tony Chilvers is a marketing and communications specialist with experience in multiple industries in South Africa and Australia

Looking back at the way your business has run is often done to find out what went wrong, not what went right. But understanding the importance of a project debrief is more valuable than many give it credit for.

A key is being suspended between books

Debriefing is not a critique

A critique is one sided. The information generally comes from a teacher or mentor, providing a one-way flow of communication to the recipient. A debrief however, is an engaging process that harnesses positive feedback through a managed session that follows a structure such as:

  1. Recount the event. That’s the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Look at the objectives, the information that was on hand at the start that shaped the idea behind the project. Document insights and recommendations that were taken on board or overlooked, and how these influenced the final output. In some instances looking at measurable data as an output of the project may also reveal valuable insights as to where things took a route unexpected
  2. Focus on decisions and outcomes. The mediator also needs to provide quick analysis on the important decisions that were made, the opportunities that were seized and missed, and explore how each impacted the whole. This is a good opportunity to reflect on external factors to project success, such as the input of third-parties or internal processes that had provided the most benefit
  3. Thoughtful reflection and future recommendations. Understanding your success involves looking forward and assessing where the team played to their strengths and where they can be used better in the future. Here you establish new processes and identify stakeholders that can own decisions that drive the success of future projects
  4. Assign a flag bearer. Walking out of the session, the mediator should nominate someone (or a committee) to implement outcomes, work out how to reward the team in the case of success and to encourage best practice ongoing

Emphasise greatness

While looking at operations can mitigate and manage risk (particularly where internal conflict may arise), the best debriefs are those that happen frequently, are well organised and look at the good and bad work, with focus on fostering the good. The greatest risk of only carrying out analysis on failed projects is that you highlight more of the negative than the good. Instilling and rewarding good behaviour will breed best practice. 

Reflective learning

No one knows everything and we’re allowed to get it wrong. The majority of innovations are mutations of what we see working around us. By creating forums and feedback sessions that encourage reflective thinking in a positive light, good habits will be encouraged, rather than bad habits being discouraged – the difference is monumental. 

Back to decoding

Analysing performance is a data game. If you have an online store, you look at site analytics and sales metrics to establish success. While it’s a little more manual, a debrief requires human intervention to extract the exact moments that teams and individuals excelled, then analyses this data to inform future success. The opportunity is for team leaders to see what works for themselves, clearly see what success looks like and then go out and make more of it.

With the right information at hand, solid business decisions can be made to build teams that work, structures that are stronger and to highlight and celebrate behaviours that breed success. 

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