Using a Debriefing Process - Developing a Culture of Learning
Organizations must possess both formal and informal learning structures to adapt and thrive, and a qualified consulting firm can teach an organization to incorporate a debriefing process, a structure that is a necessity in any rapidly-changing environment. Anyone who has not recognized the need for continuous learning in modern business has missed out on one of the most significant opportunities to improve organizational culture. The forces of rapid global change can render limited professional skill sets obsolete almost overnight. Moreover, organizations that fail to continuously revise their assumptions about their operating environments (i.e. markets) or to learn about trends via outside consulting will soon face obsolescence or irrelevance.
Unfortunately, the full spectrum of benefits derived from utilizing a debriefing process is not widely understood. The most obvious benefit of safety debriefing is its basic product, the ability to improve organizational culture. But this is only one of many benefits. Proper debriefing training with a consulting firm provides a powerful and essential structure for maintaining the capacity to learn and accelerate experience.
What are the benefits of learning to incorporate a debriefing process from a consulting firm? The benefits are numerous and fall into two main categories. First, there are the lessons learned when improving organizational culture - the discreet, tangible products that emerge directly from the debriefing process. Then there are the leadership, cultural, and intangible benefits that arise from the consistent practice of debriefing.
Tangible Benefits of Debriefing - Improve Organizational Culture
First, the debriefing process formally concludes a task or project. Today, one often hears the phrase "closing the loop." Although it's obvious and simple, one should not underestimate the significance of seeking closure on a task or project. When you work with a consulting firm specializing in debriefing, you'll learn it is a satisfying and productive means of "closing the loop." It allows us to confront what has or has not been accomplished and gives us the ability to move on. And, when safety debriefing is performed regularly, it keeps the organization focused on the present and the future rather than the past.
Second, a rigorous debriefing process seeks root causes in order to improve organizational culture. It is not enough to simply ask why something succeeded or failed. Often there are deeply imbedded and difficult-to-recognize forces at work. Simply looking for the obvious causes (the "how's") do not uncover the real forces (the "why's"). A consulting firm will teach you a proper debriefing process that will allow you to identify harmful root causes that can fester and grow to infect the organization if left unaddressed. Correspondingly, beneficial root causes, those worthy of nurturing, may die from neglect if not identified. A debriefing process provides an opportunity to sort through the ambiguities in our complex organizations and improve at the core organizational level.
Third, once root causes are identified, actionable and specific methods to improve organizational culture are developed. A good consulting firm will tell you that these methods require action, and a single individual should be responsible for implementing them. Improving organizational culture may require changes or amendments to existing processes, procedures, standards, rules, or regulations. It may require the further development of a plan or program to address the root cause or it may simply be a list of steps for others to utilize in future tasks and plans. Because methods to improve organizational culture are written in an explicit manner, they can be stored and made available for others in the future, or they may be communicated to everyone within the organization via some appropriate medium.
Finally, a debriefing process learned correctly from a consulting firm provides a rapid and simple approach to process improvement. Because safety debriefing occurs frequently, seeks root causes, and produces actionable methods to improve organizational culture, those methods can address process improvements without the unnecessary and slow tedium of methods such as Six Sigma.
Cultural Benefits of the Debriefing Process
The implementation of frequent and organization-wide safety debriefing is the first step to changing and improving the organizational culture. It is an exercise that, like rigorous physical exercise, improves our well-being in many ways.
Edgar Schein, perhaps the most respected scholar on methods to improve organizational culture, states that "culture is the result of a complex group-learning process." It is difficult to overstate the role of the debriefing process as just such a "group-learning process." The debriefing process is the sacred art of learning. It is the forum in which we absorb 'lessons learned' from ourselves and each other - for better or for worse. To take charge of that debriefing process, an experienced consulting firm can help you ritualize it, and develop it, and improve your organizational culture. As Schein has warned, if leaders don't manage their cultures, their cultures will manage them.
The kind of culture that a debriefing process helps to develop is one of learning, openness, and honesty. The thorough and candid nature of a proper debriefing process exposes the truth. Safety debriefing requires an honesty that can be ego-bruising. However, as soon as one gets past that truth-telling hurdle, one finds that such honesty and openness gained as a part of improving organizational culture is contagious and spreads to daily behaviors. One of the primary goals of consulting firms specializing in a debriefing process is to limit people from talking behind other's backs and instead, educates employees about how to actively seek out other's advice and opinions.
The debriefing process also aids leaders in establishing greater trust between themselves and their team. When a team thoroughly discusses one another's contribution to the execution of a task or project, they come to know each other and to understand an individual's unique challenges and obstacles. Furthermore, team members uncover the challenging complexities and learn how better to assist each other in managing those challenges.
Finally, the debriefing process provides specific methods to improve organizational culture. Although safety debriefing begins at the very tactical or day-to-day operations level, the debriefing process should cascade upward in the organization. The root causes that are discovered at each level, even when those causes may be ambiguous, can be cross-referenced to identify recurring root causes. For an organization as a whole, the analysis of recurring root causes is the most powerful continuous improvement tool it can possess. Such analysis provides a capacity to identify or self-diagnose a host of organizational weaknesses.
As a learning tool, and in developing a culture of learning, a debriefing process is essential. We live in a world of rapid and often violent change that we have no real capacity to predict. Lessons learned today may save us tomorrow, but could become irrelevant next week. And while knowledge of the real world is perishable, ritualistic debriefing process skills learned from a credible consulting firm can help you stay fresh and up-to-date.