I’m a big believer in the power of earnest and regular debriefings. A sincere and thoughtful examination of what worked and what didn’t – and why.
I do it for shows, projects, products, meetings – in fact I do it for just about every aspect of my life. You’ll find countless resources extolling the virtues of good planning but far fewer that mention the value of a critical examination of deeds done. Planning often involves educated guesses based on the experience of others. But debriefing gives you something unique: evidence and insight gleaned from your own real world experience. That’s powerful stuff if you’re willing to mine through it with an open and honest mind.
There are a few keys to successful debriefings. Here are just a few I find helpful:
Record when possible. This won’t apply to everything but it applies to more that you might think. It can be a huge help in meetings, performances, presentations and brainstorming sessions. It may sound odd but I often audio record myself when I’m working through an idea - I simply speak out loud as if I was trying to convey the info to someone else. Personally, I think audio recording offers more insight than a video. Listening back can often highlight issues that you might miss when you might otherwise be distracted by the visuals. Of course it goes without saying that this must be done openly and with permission when others are involved.
Take notes. Whether you're listening to a recording or just mentally replaying an event, start getting your impressions on paper. We are inundated with information and data every waking moment. Even the most “memorable” moments can get lost in the flow. Think of those notes as your own personal cloud storage. You’ll be glad you have it.
Reflect. Now that you have the notes and data, it’s time to reflect. Doug Sundheim of The Harvard Business Review suggests four key questions to a good debrief:
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- Where did you hit (or miss) your objectives?
- What caused your results?
- What should you start, stop, or continue doing?
Remember you are doing this for YOU and no one else. The dissection must be honest to be useful. If you can do that, you’ll be rewarded in ways you can’t begin to imagine. Acres of diamonds, indeed.
So Happy New Year one and all…
Here’s to a future filled with happiness and success.
And a past rich with lessons to learn from.