The debriefing culture

Read Time: 2 minutes

Adam Loong | January 11th, 2022


Continuous Improvement or toxic? 'How' you debrief will define which culture develops.

A commonality shared amongst high performance teams worldwide, is the practice of debriefing. At a quick look, you might be tempted to deduce that it is the simple act of regularly reviewing your team’s performance that leads to attaining this auspicious label however, as with most things in life and business, it’s not quite as simple as that.

To understand how debriefing can inspire a culture of continuous improvement and ultimately success, we need to delve into the ‘how to debrief’. Many organisations have failed in their quest of building a high-performance culture through debriefing because of a misguided understanding of the aim that debriefing is trying to achieve.

When asked the question:

‘What are you trying to achieve from the debrief’, a typical answer is:

‘To review our results to see where we won and where we lost and then come up with a plan on how to win more often.’

This mentality leads to team members focussed on results, vice on the behaviours that lead to the results. Focussing on results during execution can lead to behaviours that are misaligned to company values that can often border on unethical. Additionally, an outcome focussed debrief can lead to internal team turmoil as individuals scramble to be recognised as the person with the best results.

A better answer to the question posed above is:

‘To review how we executed against how we planned to execute. We then discuss how to improve execution next time. Finally, based on the results and our execution, we discuss how to improve the plan’.

Taking this mentality into the debriefing room results in a focus on execution vice on outcomes. This focus leads to a greater concentration by the team on behaviours in the workplace vice trying to attain results at any length. The former are the true marks of a high-performance team and is a major contributor to the generation of a culture of continuous improvement. Moreover, this technique should be applied throughout the working day and between every interaction between a leader and her team.

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