Why project debriefing is so important for cleantech companies and how to get the most out of it

In our recent blog Project management that propels you towards achieving your company vision we mentioned the importance of debriefing as part of effective project management. In this post, we’ll dig deeper. We explain why project debriefing is so important for the success of your cleantech company and detail how you get the most out of the process.

The goals of debriefing

Debriefing helps you effectively assess your degree of success. It provides a space for celebration and for uncovering potential areas for improvement. It ensures you avoid repeating mistakes and loosing important learnings. And last but not least it should serve to resolve misunderstandings and help get all team members on the same page, implicitly contributing to building powerful team spirit.

Ultimately, it’s an important tool for achieving your company vision. Find out why it’s so powerful.

When and how often to debrief for optimal results

Conduct debriefs at regular intervals throughout longer-term projects or at the end of each shorter project. Debriefs should become an integral, expected and welcomed part of your company processes. They will provide a safe space for learning and improving, and contribute to cultivating a learning mindset.

It will give your employees security and reassurance to know that progress is reviewed regularly and that they have a say. Not holding regular debriefs may either lead to not doing them at all or just holding debriefs during crisis. The former will constrain your company success. The latter can make debriefs negatively charged and therefore miss their mark and inhibit your potential.

How to debrief

Throughout projects, every team member should collect their thoughts. At Life Size we have a task on each Asana project board where we can jot down any thoughts as and when they occur. Everyone should revisit this and prepare themselves before the debrief.

Check-in on the budget and ROI

This is important at any stage of business, but urgently so for start-ups. By regularly assessing your effectiveness, you demonstrate your accountability to your investors and stakeholders including your employees.

The reason we place the budget review first is that it’s the most factual of metrics to look at together. From here on, it can get intense and complex, so it’s important to get the facts logged first.

List good and bad points factually

Start by revisiting the original plan and goals. What have you achieved and what not? Celebrate the good points. Then ask yourself why things went well or badly. It’s good to give individual praise, less good to point fingers at individuals for mistakes. In each instance, acknowledge the team effort behind both positive and negative results. You’re in it through thick and thin. Importantly, when asking why don’t stop at the first reply.

Dig deeper

Instead dig deeper by asking why repeatedly, just like a curious child would in their determination to understand the crux of a matter. It’s valuable both for positive and negative learnings as it will mean you can take the actual cause of positive and negative outcomes forward. The Harvard Business Review calls this process the “5 Whys” and explains it clearly in this short video.

The hardest part of debriefing

This is the hardest part of debriefing, but the one that will have the biggest impact on your company growth. Hear everyone. Be open and honest. Move through the discomfort of potentially uncovering deeper issues, knowing that it’s much better to take action on shortcomings now than to not fulfil your individual potential or that of your company.

What’s at stake

Imagine you didn’t identify and tackle issues at this stage: You’d progress towards your vision slower or not at all. This is not just about business and profits. As a cleantech company it’s about your technology and solving the climate crisis. Ultimately, it’s our planet that’s at stake, which is why it’s so important for cleantech companies to get debriefing right.

Take learnings forward

Debriefs are an opportunity to identify opportunities for personal and professional growth. Acknowledge these and take them into your 121-employee coaching.

For learnings and necessary actions applying to more than one person, ask yourself who needs to be filled in and what other departments will benefit from your results. This is especially important if you’re expanding rapidly from a core team that intimately understands the company towards operating as a much larger company.

On the practical level, assign tasks, give them deadlines and determine who is accountable for overseeing their implementation.

When to check your debrief notes

Independently from the implementation process above, also check in on your debrief notes when evaluating or reviewing project progress or a client relationship, at the beginning of a new project of the same type and when challenges arise. You might have been in a similar situation before. What did you learn then? Will it help you again now?

Project debriefing is a powerful and important,  yet often overlooked and underused, business tool. Use it to your advantage to accelerate your growth and achieve your vision faster.

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