A View from Blue Grotto

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Debriefing enhances organizational knowledge

I just met with a colleague the other day to discuss the Value of Storytelling workshop we developed at Blue Grotto.

In describing our work on helping clients to collect and communicate their best practices through a narrative process, I mentioned an article by Jimmy Guterman – The Lost (or Never Learned) Art of Debriefing. In it, Guterman tells how the model of military debriefing can be extremely useful in business.

At Blue Grotto, we talk a lot about nuanced information, the information you can’t get from an elevator speech, a customer satisfaction survey, an employee exit survey, etc. I can go on and on about all the sound bite tools companies use in the quest for better, more quantifiable information.

In our work, we’ve found that the nuanced information is usually locked away inside someone’s brain. Perspective from hands-on work and experience. Information a person didn’t know may be valuable to someone else, maybe everyone, in the company. And they typically don’t know how to convert that knowledge to the company’s knowledge infrastructure. Debriefing may be just the tool to get you started.

A few of Guterman’s suggestions for debriefing:
· Build in the expectation that the employee attending the conference or event will be providing detailed information upon their return.
· Be succinct and debrief as soon as possible to leverage enthusiasm, stick to the highlights.
· Remember the power of stories – narratives will help your audience to digest information and understand the impact of it. (Of course, I am particularly in favor of the storytelling component.)

There are dozens of ways to incorporate the debrief process into everyday communications and reporting. The “from the field” aspect of the debrief makes it credible. The trick is to successfully synthesize the details into information that everyone can use. Helping people inside your company – from sales to facilities management - to understand why something worked is as important as congratulating the team on the fact that it worked. It really is an art. One Blue Grotto client took the debrief seriously and managed to incorporate knowledge they had acquired the year before to develop an award-winning tradeshow booth two years in a row.

Email me with examples of how you use the debrief inside your own company or organization, and I’ll debrief everyone in a future blog.

Link: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/2940.html to view the complete article by Jimmy Guterman

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.