Team debrief of meetings

Team Debrief is a model developed by Kimberly Smith-Jentsch⁠1 to help teams assess their work and has shown to improve team effectiveness by up to 25%. She has shown that even though many groups evaluate their work,  it does not have an effect in man cases. One of the reasons she has found is that most organizations focus on evaluating what they are working on and try to improve that instead of evaluating their collaboration and try to improve that. The Team Debrief model fit perfectly if you want to dig deeper into how to improve both your meetings and your teamwork, and I have used it extensively when doing retrospectives with teams. The reason Team Debrief works is that it helps the team create a similar team mental model of how they collaborate which is the key to building an effective team, while talking about your tasks might give some short-term improvements but in the long term improving collaboration is much more important.

Team Debrief consists of four parts that the team should evaluate:

  • Information Exchange – How good are we at sharing information and getting information into the group?
  • Communication delivery – How good are we at communicating and understanding one another?
  • Supportive & Feedback – How good are we at supporting one another and giving feedback?
  • Initiative and leadership – How good are we encouraging initiatives and people taking leadership?

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What I usually do is to ask the group to evaluate each of the four dimensions on a scale from 0 to 5 (you might have noticed a trend in how I work now). If we are in the same room, I usually ask everyone to write their numbers down on sticky notes, and we then put them up. I then look for two things in the numbers:

  • Where is the lowest and largest average in the numbers?
  • Where is the biggest difference between the lowest and highest number?

Both of these are interesting, but I usually focus on the dimension with the largest difference between the lowest and greatest number. If someone gives communication delivery a five and another one a two, then we have two completely different views on how this is working for the team and this is where the most interesting conversations can happen.

I then ask the participants to reflect on themselves for a while and find concrete examples of, for example, communication delivery that

  • Gave value
  • Was wrong or lacking

They write them down on post-its and put them up and present them. If you have the time you can do this for the other three dimensions as well or you can stick with one of them. Then you can use this to find some patterns and create a suggestion for a change for the next meeting.

Method Summary

  • Draw the table on the board and shortly explain the four dimensions (you don’t need to talk about the theory behind it)
  • Ask the participants to rate each dimension from 0 to 5 and write the numbers on sticky notes
  • Put up the sticky notes and ask them not to explain the number now.
  • Find the dimension with largest difference or lowest average
  • Ask them to find concrete examples that either gave value or was bad or lacking in the dimension. Write on post-its
  • Put up the examples and talk about them.
  • If you have the time repeat this for the other dimensions
  • Find one action that you could implement for your next meeting.

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1 Team dimensional training: A strategy for guided team self-correction, Kimberly Smith-Jentsch, 1998, American Psychology Association