"Hindsight is 20/20," and yet few people take advantage of this wisdom systematically. How often do we take the time to do a thorough debrief of an event? Yet, so much of our work is cyclical, with yearly national conferences, quarterly workshops, and weekly meetings.
The immediate value disappears if it is not documented in a timely manner. Research shows the lesser details are forgotten after just five to six days. Many people don't do a debrief session with their team because they already are busy working on the next event.
The purpose of the debrief is to find better ways of doing things by identifying mistakes and clarifying objectives. Two important outcomes of this process are: (1) to learn and hold onto what works and (2) to share and teach best practices.
Here are four topics to address during your debrief session:
1. What worked especially well? What were the highlights?
2. What aspects did not work? What assumptions did we make? What areas needed more support?
3. What were the big(gest) risks we took? Did we take enough risks? How could we better prepare for the "surprise factor"?
4. If money, time, and resources were not a factor, what would we do differently? What features, benefits, or "goodies" would we add to the event? Describe in vivid detail this ideal scene in terms of wild success and flawless execution.
Most crises can be anticipated with the right planning and attention. If you're shaking your head and saying, "No, we're always in crisis mode," then you need to implement this immediately and build it into your culture. You don't have the luxury of not requiring this essential aspect of productivity management. By making the debrief session part of the complete process, you add an effective planning tool to your management ability and to your organization's future.