Eradicating Artificial Harmony with Daily Debriefs

Continual improvement runs deep in the veins of Syrup. From the work we do to the process of creating it, down to the people on the team themselves. Nothing in this business goes long without the lens of continual improvement fixed over it. Recently that lens focused in on our team communication.

We have a close team. One I’ve never been prouder to be a part of. But with the speed at which we work, the advent and full adoption of digital communication (namely Slack), and the overall “get it done, don’t complain” mentality of high-level team players – that lens of continual improvement uncovered that we as a team could be better at communicating.

Any time we work with other human beings there is going to be conflict at some point. And when you work with a team of people moving fast, there is absolutely going to be conflict. So as we looked through the lens of continual improvement and noticed a little conflict surfacing throughout the days, spidey senses kicked in and said something was not quite right. 

The core issue we were working to improve – no, eradicate – was an issue Patrick Lencioni coined as “Artificial Harmony” in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.

Artificial Harmony is when a team does not participate in healthy conflict communication. They operate out of the “grin and bear it” mentality. They cover up for other people’s mistakes for, what they think is, the betterment of the team and work product.

The first step we took to get an idea of where our conflict communication skills stood was an exercise laid out in Lencioni’s book called “Depth-Frequency Conflict Model.” I recommend picking up the Field Guide version for details. It showed, in crystal clear data, when/if any conflict was surfaced, we skewed as an organization toward “Rare and Shallow”.

To fix this we turned to a tool we learned from James Murphy and the team at Afterburner through his book Flawless Execution – Daily STEALTH Debriefs.

That’s right – daily.

‘Murph’ and the team at Afterburner are current and former fighter pilots, U.S. Navy SEALs and other elite military professionals. ‘Murph’ brought lessons he learned from his time with the Air Force to the business scene through his book and through other consultative, seminar, and keynote environments.

At the end of Every. Single. Day. we would round up as a company and have a STEALTH Debrief.

**What is a STEALTH Debrief? I’ve attached the exact notes I used to roll them out to the team at the end of this post.**

After 2+ months of these daily debriefs the increase in quality of communication within our team has been simply remarkable.

  • The team is developing healthy conflict communication skills.
  • There is more in-person communication happening vs. Slack.
  • Issues are being resolved almost immediately versus being swept under the rug and creating frustration.
  • Our work process is improving. We’re cutting time to complete some tasks in half and in others, we’re producing superior end results due to more clarity and the team working more closely together.
  • And the biggest one – we are well on our way to eradicating Artificial Harmony from this business.

It’s such a gift to come into a business each day and know that the team desires open and honest communication. No hiding. No beating around the bush.

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My Notes:

  1. S – Set the time -These will be Daily – 3:30 – towards the backdoor open area. I will lead these.
  2. T – Tone – These will be nameless, rankless debriefs. Whiteboard in reach.
    • When they cross the threshold of the briefing room door, they throw away their name and rank. All they bring in is the truth, an open mind, and open communication.
    • If there was a mistake, they want to freely admit it, in front of their peers, supervisors, and/or subordinates; if they’ve forgotten a mistake, a fellow pilot is going to point it out to them.
    • I go first with “inside-outside” criticism – Where did I mess up? Where did I execute an unplanned activity?
    • No names – Just seats. “Paid was not …. “ “The Account Lead ….”
    • Whiteboard is there for parking lot issues.
    • After addressing self-mistakes, and then issuing in 3rd person outside criticism, wait for feedback.
    • Challenge those that give weak feedback
  3. E – Execution vs. objectives kickoff questions:
    • Did everybody understand today’s objectives?
    • Was it clear?
    • Was it measurable?
    • Was it achievable and obtainable?
    • Did it support the future picture of this company?
    • We only discuss facts.
  4. A – Analyze Execution: Whatever makes it up on the whiteboard > then has its list of probable causes created.
    • These are always “hows,” and “hows” are always an active human error. No circumstantial failures.
    • We need to know the “why!” It will be one of these categories:
      1. Leadership – is the root traced back to a tone/environment created by the leader?
      2. Organization – disorganized process / time / chaos
      3. Teamwork – a teammate could have called this out & prevented it.
      4. Communication – the person saw the error & didn’t call it out.
      5. Discipline – doing what you’ve been trained to do. No exceptions.
  5. L- Lessons Learned: Identify the Lessons Learned
    • Prominent or recurring root causes.
  6. T – Transfer Lessons Learned throughout your organization
    • Post a summary on Slack of the lesson learned. CREATE A NEW CHANNEL.
  7. H -High Note – Positive summation
    • End on a positive