Debriefing – What Is it? Why do it? How is it done?

Debriefing is a report of a mission, a project, or information that has been obtained. It is a structured process following an exercise, project or event that reviews the actions taken. The art of gaining experience through the strategic review and debrief of past events.


Why Debrief?

Debriefing can be one of the most powerful leadership practices as it is extremely useful for project management, performance management, and coaching.

Debriefing in the workplace

Debriefing should be a significant part of any project within an organisation because we learn more from an event or project once it’s over, more so than when the project is in operation. We very often finish something and then move on to something else before discussing and reflecting on the way things went.

Think about the way a sports coach draws up their plans. Only after watching the team play can the coach see what works and what doesn’t and then plan accordingly for the next game.

Debrief to stay on track and promote continuous improvement

There are necessary skills to a successful debrief. Mastering them sometimes is not as easy as you think. However, when done correctly it will become an important tool to understand and have.

Any team leader or member should understand its basics steps, needs, and benefits.

Why debriefing?

Debriefing can help you:

  • Create staff consistency
  • Learn from challenges and successes
  • Create plans to make positive change
  • Deal with incidents more effectively next time
  • PREVENT a next time

Key elements include


The ability to know when to engage into debriefing is usually a factor of experience. Schedule a meeting sooner and determine how frequently you’ll conduct your debrief meetings in advance. Determine how often and how long you’re meeting for should be and discuss how often it will be necessary to go over what you and your team are working on.

Prepare a meeting agenda

Preparing an agenda is essential, and should include the main theme, talking points, supporting documents, decisions, and action items. By creating a meeting agenda template you and your team can use this as an outline and guide for the debriefing meetings.

Ensure that team members are comfortable a participating in a debrief.

For a successful debrief have a safe environment, psychological safety is a shared belief amongst team members that it is safe to take interpersonal risks and speak up, even if the idea may be unpopular.


Communication is key. Make sure that all team members have a chance to contribute to the discussion. With your agenda prepared it will ensure your team will be aware of all the talking points and actions ahead of time, meaning they can come prepared with ideas, questions, and things to consider.

Ask Questions

Ask open-ended questions as this prompts more discussion and therefore provides an opportunity for the team to collaborate on the tasks at hand and the decisions that need to be made.

By asking these types of questions, it demonstrates your interest and shows your employees that their opinions and advice truly matters. Open-ended question conversations are important because they generate an opportunity to learn from others.

3 model for how to conduct a debrief that works well:

  • Ask ‘What’ questions – these questions refer to what happened during the exercise/project and are used to get the discussion off to a good start.
  • Ask ‘So What’ questions – these questions relate the activity back to the goals of your program and add meaning to it.
  • Ask ‘Now What’ questions – these questions drive home the lesson’s objective by discussing future behaviours and goals.

Record conclusions and agreements

All conclusions and agreements should be recorded for future use. Results and adjustments should be noted and circulated to the team shortly after the debriefing. This will give everyone a last chance to confirm that they agree or see where they have a different understanding of the agreement.

It increases the sense of responsibility between members, as we can act if we know that it will be followed. Have we set our expectations well? If so we should be happy about our progress. If not, how can we do better in the future?


A debrief will benefit workers of all experience levels. New hires will learn more quickly how the business operates and the role they can play to make it even better.

It enables your people to continue to learn and grow, and at the same time it reinforces the standards that makes your organisation so successful.

Debriefing is important as it creates a safe environment so that leaders will receive the honest feedback they need to keep their organisation grow and strive to the highest performance.

If you would like to know more on how debriefing can be used to help your organisation analyse and understand project management, performance management, and coaching, please feel free to get in touch


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