#1 Most Useful Meeting Topic: The Debrief

The most powerful part of a good team or project meeting is the “debrief”. There’s no better way to take the pulse of a group’s productivity and effectiveness than to ask these two key debrief questions:

  1. With regard to your job assignments, what is working well?
  2. What is not working well?

When your team members take time to consider “What’s Working? What’s Not Working?”, they come to the meeting prepared to find out about where their job responsibilities may need an upgrade. This is pure gold – it bypasses the “problem-solving” blather that usually eats up meeting time and goes straight to the heart of the matter: Where are the successes? And what isn’t working?

There are three underlying causes of “What’s Not Working” for department or project team members:

  1. Lack of clarity on results to be produced. Mostly our work assignments emphasize what we need to do, and not so much on what results we need to produce. Team members can get lost in doing – and slow down the entire endeavor.
  2. Lack of awareness of outside requirements or constraints. Team members who don’t know about external rules or conditions that need attention can leave out important connections or communications with other departments or outside organizations and agencies. This can cost the whole project unplanned time or resources.
  3. Lack of coordination. If my assignment somehow affects your results, we need to talk. The word “coordinate” comes from the Latin for “begin together “– another way of saying “Get on the same page.” It’s the hardest thing to manage because it’s invisible: everybody can see the people and the work, but nobody can see the connections unless they are spelled out in debrief meetings. Then, it’s best to write them down as part of a task-list for future team members.

Opening up these “cans of worms” in a debrief conversation – also known as the first part of a Closure Conversation where you “acknowledge the facts” – is valuable because it moves everyone into an Understanding dialogue about what is missing from some aspect of their shared project or goals. Clarity, awareness, and coordination go missing on a regular basis, so ask the “What’s Working? What’s Not Working?” questions at least once a week.

PS – To find out what’s working in your department or project, take the free assessment.

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