Sep 28, 2011

Do You Debrief?

So you just finished up with a big event or program.  Maybe it was summer camp, volunteer training,  family service, or fall festival.  Just as you breathe a sigh of relief...bam...another event or calendar item is already staring you down.  

But hang on...before you jump into the next big's important to slow down and look in the rear view mirror.  Taking time to debrief is one of the best things you can do after an event is over.  

Here's some keys to effective debriefing:

Debrief within one week after the event is over.  You want to debrief while your thoughts and memory are fresh.

Get the right people in the room.  The debrief team should be made up of people who are able to identify issues and come up with solutions, actions and outcomes.

Keep the debrief as "brief" as possible.  Limit the meeting to one hour or less.  If it goes longer than that, people will not want to do another one.

Don't let it get personal.  If the event was not successful, it's not about finding out whose fault it was.  Make it clear up front that the purpose of the meeting is not to attack or place blame on others. 

Make it a level playing field.  Everyone is on equal ground.  Don't allow one person to dominate the conversation because of seniority or expertise.

Pass out post-it notes.  Have everyone write down issues they saw and ways to improve.  Gather the post-it notes and put them in categories such as volunteers, technical, advertising, communication, planning, etc.  Work through the notes as a team.

Discuss questions such as...
"How did the event feel?"
"What was it like for them?"
"What did they notice, experience, or hear?"
"Did we achieve our goals?"
"If we fell short, why?"
"What could we have done better?"
"What issues came up that we didn't expect?"
"What did we learn about ourselves as a team through this event?"

Capture it.  Make sure someone records or writes down all the feedback.  Then have them put it in a document that can be distributed to everyone after the debrief is over.

Make a list of ways you can improve.  If you do the event again, you can refer back to the list.  The goal is continual improvement. 

Create action steps.  Issues that are identified should have actions steps associated with them.  Assign the action steps to team members.

End the debrief on a positive note.  Focus on wins not just fails.  If you focus solely on mistakes, it can become demotivational.  Take time to encourage and praise.

Do you debrief?  What are some things you do to make your debriefs effective?  Would enjoy seeing your ideas in the comment section below.


Before entering into the debriefing process, I encourage the team to think about the 'bigger picture', to filter every comment, thought, criticism, complaint, observation, success and encouragement of what the 'bigger picture' was for each event.

I make it a point to write down feedback during the event as much as possible...the freshest of feedback...then I type that to present at the debriefing for review - it's some work, but makes debriefing at the meeting very productive.

I have used to collect feedback from people, but I have not regularly held debrief sessions. I love your ideas here—extremely practical and very helpful. Thanks!

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