The Benefit of Safety Debriefing – Developing a Culture of Learning through Lessons Learned

nfortunately, the full spectrum of benefits derived from proper safety debriefing is not widely understood. The most obvious benefit of debriefing is its basic product, the lesson learned. But, this is only one of many benefits. Proper debriefing training with a consulting firm provides a powerful and essential structure for maintaining the capacity to learn and accelerate experience.

What are the benefits of proper debriefing learned from a consulting firm? They are numerous and fall into two main categories. First, there are the lessons learned – the discreet, tangible products that emerge directly from the debrief process. Then there are the leadership, cultural, and intangible benefits that arise from the consistent practice of debriefing.

Tangible Benefits of Debriefing

First, safety debriefing formally concludes a task or project. Today, one often hears the phrase “closing the loop”. Although it’s obvious and simple, one should not underestimate the significance of seeking closure on a task or project. When you work with a consulting firm specializing in debriefing, you’ll learn it is a satisfying and productive means of “closing the loop”. It allows us to confront what has or has not been accomplished and move on. And, when safety debriefing is performed regularly, it keeps the organization focused on the present and the future rather than the past.

Second, a rigorous debriefing process seeks root causes in order to construct “lessons learned”. It is not enough to simply ask why something succeeded or failed. Often there are deeply imbedded and difficult to recognize forces at work. Simply looking for the obvious causes (the “how’s”) do not uncover the real forces (the “why’s”). Proper debriefing training with a consulting firm will teach you that those harmful root causes can fester and grow to infect the organization if left unaddressed. Correspondingly, beneficial root causes, those worthy of nurturing, may die from neglect if not identified. Safety debriefing provides an opportunity to sort through the ambiguities in our complex organizations and improve at the core organizational level.

Third, once root causes are identified, actionable and specific “lessons learned” are developed. A good consulting firm will tell you that lessons learned require action to be taken, and a single individual should be responsible for implementing them. A lesson learned may require changes or amendments to existing processes, procedures, standards, rules, or regulations. It may require the further development of a plan or program to address the root cause. Or, it may simply be a list of steps for others to utilize in future tasks and plans. Since lessons learned are written in an explicit manner, they can be stored and made available for others in the future. Or, they may be communicated to everyone within the organization via some appropriate medium.

Finally, through the lesson learned, safety debriefing learned correctly from a consulting firm provides a rapid and simple approach to process improvement. Since debriefs occur frequently, seek root causes, and produce actionable lessons learned, those lessons can address process improvements without the unnecessary and slow tedium of methods like Six Sigma.