How to Avoid Complacency [Part 4]: Holding Debrief Meetings


In the first three posts on defeating complacency, we discussed tools and techniques used in the Planning, Briefing, and the Execution phases of the Flawless Execution® Model. We discussed Planning for Contingencies, Red Teaming the plan, Briefing the plan and establishing an Execution Rhythm℠ by conducting X-Gap’s. So what’s left? Glad you asked. The final technique we can use to fight complacency is to hold regular Debrief Meetings. And not just when things go wrong! Let’s quickly talk about what a Debrief Meeting is, what it isn’t, and why you should be Debriefing more often than you think.

First, a Debrief is a teaching and learning opportunity. Nothing more and nothing less. A Debrief is not a time to play “whack a mole” with your team like you’re at Chucky Cheese. It is an opportunity, as a team, to discover what we did right and what we did wrong. To repeat the “Goods,” eliminate the “Bads,” and to teach others in our organization.

In their article, “The Teaching Organization,” Tichy and Cohen state that, “Teaching organizations are more agile, come up with better strategies, and are able to implement them more effectively.” You cannot be complacent if you are agile, develop better strategies, and are more effective at implementation. Holding Nameless/Rankless Debriefs, which focus on teaching and learning by developing Lessons Learned, will drive complacency right out of your team.

Second, you should be Debriefing all the time. As a pilot we Debrief after every one of our flights. We Debrief after every phase of a campaign is completed. We Debrief whenever we can. Debriefing is in our cultural DNA and it is not treated as an “add-on.” Debriefs are simply part of our execution cycle.

In the business world, you should have a Debrief after every mission, every sales call, presentation, gained client, lost client, end of the week, month, and quarter. Depending on the size and scope of the event, some Debrief Meetings will be long and some will be short. Depending on the results, some will be good and some will be…. well, not so good. But the point here is that you must Debrief, develop Lessons Learned, and emphasize that the Debrief is a teaching and learning opportunity rather than a blame session.

The VP of North American Sales for a major medical technologies and solutions company said it best during a series of Debriefs we led together. He said, “I don’t care what the results are. I already know what they are. First, I want to know what can I do better as your leader? And second, what did you learn that we can pass to the other eight regions?”

Not only does Debriefing fight complacency by avoiding the mantra of, “We do the same thing year after year,” Debriefing also fights complacency in a subtle way during plan Execution. Because a team knows they will Debrief, that their voices will be heard in a Nameless/Rankless environment, and that they have a chance to create Lessons Learned to better the organization, team members will begin to record and write down what I like to call Debrief Focus Points (DFPs). Instead of waiting until the end of the mission, the recognition of DFPs will inspire a team to develop and implement solutions during the execution phase. Holding regular Debriefs will negate the propensity of “letting things slide,” will negate complacency across the board, and will foster a robust and agile organization.

Debriefing is the keystone to Flawless Execution

Perhaps more than any other tool, Debriefing is the best process to elevate your team’s execution and negate complacency. Conduct Debriefs as often as you can and when you do, make them Nameless and Rankless.