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How to run a team debrief

Five steps to make sure your team is on track after a project

Once a work project is done, many who were involved just want to move on. Big mistake. Teams that had problems need to debrief so they can right the ship and not repeat mistakes. High-performing teams need to identify why their last project worked. Here, Diana Drury, Artsci’83, Ed’84, director of team and executive coaching for Smith’s MBA and master’s programs, explains five steps to a winning team debrief.

  1. Go around the room and let every teammate bring forward something that, in their opinion, worked during the project’s execution. Don’t let teammates challenge one another’s contributions. “Instead, focus on generating a long list of things that went well,” Drury says.
  2. Next, review all the positive inputs and vote on your team’s Top 3 things that went well. “The big question is: What’s working for us? That’s how you generate consensus,” Drury says.
  3. Repeat the same process for a list of things that didn’t work. Again, there’s no discussion or debate during this process. Everyone simply contributes what they feel could have been better.
  4. Now, vote to rank the Top 3 things that didn’t work. The goal: to cut them from your process. “It’s not about placing blame,” says Drury. “Remember, you’re a team.”
  5. Create a lessons-learned file of what worked and didn’t. That determines what your team is going to do differently moving forward and, Drury says, becomes the basis for your next team project.