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A LinkedIn post yesterday spoke of a person who’d received their ‘Debriefing’ certificate. Hands up, my first thoughts were ‘who needs to be trained in criticising?’ Uncharitable, and definitely a bit closed-minded.

Particularly so because while I have not myself been on such a course, I have had input that could easily be described under the term ‘debriefing’, from a good friend. So I have been trained. Whether it is the same level or content I may never know.

Most debriefs celebrate either ‘what went wrong’ if the project failed and will be heavily laden with ‘I told you sos’ from those who were never asked their opinion beforehand and feel piqued, or who were asked – but said nothing. They would be the types heavily reliant on hindsight. Of course, the same people would also contribute on a successful operation’s debrief, but would be claiming credit or, at least, that their contribution was the ‘bit’ that made everything work.

The problem, as far as my good friend would be concerned, is that both focus only upon the majors – they focus on went wrong (failed project) or celebrate what went right (successful project).

Both debriefs fail, therefore, to see a broader picture that would better serve the next event.

My friend, on the other hand, said all debriefs should rely on just three questions.

  1. What went well?
  2. What did we learn?
  3. What will we do next time?

This set of questions is brilliant. It allows for the ‘good’ stuff to be celebrated first. A positive start, creating a positive environment for the next question.

The order of the three questions is also brilliant because without using the word ‘wrong’, the second question invites people to both own and solve the problems they have identified, rather than just focusing on the fact “it was someone else’s fault and I would have done it differently but I wasn’t asked”. (See above.) It is solution focused but does not avoid the issue that the solution will address. It lets people contribute to a better end rather than just allow for a typically selfish hit job on somebody else – who frequently won’t be present but that’s a different post. (Guilty, and ashamed.)

The last question brings the answers to the first questions into a plan, rather than leaving everything hanging and allowing the detractors to carry on buck-passing.

My friend (John M, thank you!) used this trilemma of questions every time –and I mean every time – we did anything together, and it served me well. It must have done because he let me do things on my own later on, some great opportunities that his mentoring allowed me to take.

Which is another thing – keep hold of your mentors. They believed in you as much as you believe in them, and that’s a beautiful situation for any aspirant to greatness.

Learn the three questions, and apply them frequently. Even if you’re the only one present at the debrief.

Print your own certificate…………………