What Can We Learn About Business Execution From Emergency Action Crews?


5 Flawless Execution Lessons Learned From Emergency Action Teams

We are currently observing our local Emergency Action Teams (EATs) respond to tribulations in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. Watching these teams in action as well as reflecting on the Emergency Action Teams of the past makes me extremely proud. It also drives me to consider why these teams are so consistently effective.

The processes of Afterburner and the Flawless Execution model were built on the success of small teams responding to immediate need… just like the Emergency Action Teams we see in action today. Here are 5 of the most critical enabling concepts:

  1. Focused work… Solid mission objective: Emergency Action Teams respond to a Clear, Measurable, and Achievable need that aligns with the need of the community. This sense of purpose becomes the North Star for the EATs that brings clarity and determination to mission accomplishment. This focus is also singular. EAT’s can only operate in support of one mission at a time. If personnel is assigned to multiple missions, then the switching costs begin to tax the effort. In a similar fashion, Flawless Execution begins with a Mission Objective that aligns the team to purpose and commitment in a singular way.
  2. The smallest possible team, with the right people, committed and focused: Emergency Action Teams focus on their mission with the leanest team size possible. This often is the case because personnel resources are at a premium. The team is constructed of only the people needed to accomplish their Mission. This allows other teams to work on other missions. The idea is that multiple small EATs work in concert to accomplish the larger needs of the community. Afterburner uses the same core concept. Through Open Planning and Team Selection, we assemble Mission teams focused on narrowly defined Mission Objectives.
  3. Daily communication: X-Gap meetings… Singular focus… Emergency Action Teams typically have daily stand-up meetings that focus on what has been done, what needs to be done and how they can help. These meetings don’t discuss football, politics or stock price… They are focused on the work at hand. These meetings don’t even focus on why an action might have failed unless understanding the “why” will help us get the action complete. Laser focus on the Mission. Afterburner brings this approach to our Missions. We teach both the team leader and the team how to use the X-Gap meetings to keep the project on time and on target. This laser-focused meeting aide in maintaining progress and discipline while avoiding wasted time.
  4. Short duration: Emergency Action Teams often are working to deliver success in a short time: 2 – 4 weeks. This duration generally leverages the fact that in our busy world it is almost impossible for us to commit to activities that span more than 4 weeks. These teams are focused and committed to the mission because the short duration clears their calendar and the daily activities that often encroach upon our focus. Afterburner scopes and sizes Mission Objectives in as short of a duration as possible and uses teams who are empowered to focus on the mission.
  5. Debriefing: Emergency Action Teams, sadly, often fail to recognize how important it is to Debrief and ensure the organization learns from the events that drove the team. These teams are simply moving so fast that they don’t. In EAT’s we often don’t Plan for the Debrief. Intuitively we know our actions and the lessons learned are “gold” as we will one day again face this emergency or a similar emergency.  Afterburner knows that the only way to learn from the past is to capture the Debriefing Focus Points as we go through the execution. This allows us to bring focus to the actions that we must learn from. “Only evaluated lessons learned impact future execution!”

It is with great pride that I watch our Emergency Action crews respond to the needs of our citizens! We all know that they accomplish amazing things. Don’t we want similar results from our teams? How can we learn from these teams and apply the concepts to our workforce and project delivery teams? Afterburner has addressed this issue. The tools and techniques of Flawless Execution were born and bred in the crucible of “can’t fail” missions. Let us show you how!