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Mission Accomplished – Now Take Some Time to Debrief!

by Laura Singer
Senior Communication Consultant, Writer & Editor

You’ve finished that big project. Relief rushes over you: It’s finally done.

There’s a saying that goes, “Our work may be finished but it’s not complete.” And that’s where debriefing comes in.

Why Debrief?
Even the most successful projects can benefit from a debrief. In the unlikely event that everything went seamlessly, wouldn’t other teams benefit from your best practices? When your annual review comes up, or when you’re looking for that next career move, understanding why this work was successful gives you powerful talking points.

But more likely, there were some stumbling blocks: stakeholders who were not onboard, tasks that took too long, messages that were not communicated effectively. Analyzing why this happened can save you time, money and headaches next time.

How to Debrief
As the project is winding down, send an invitation for a debrief session and ask key team members to begin capturing discussion points. Depending on the size and location of your team, the meeting can be face-to-face or virtual. Have a good facilitator and someone to document input on a spreadsheet that everyone can see. Carve out sufficient time and provide snacks!

Once you have your issues recorded, spend the rest of the meeting analyzing the issues and brainstorming what you could have done better. Start with the items of greatest impact (What undermined the project’s goals? What affected the most people? What created a drain on resources?). Tackle them in order of importance.

3 Rules for Debriefing:

  1. Sooner Than Later: Schedule a debrief session as soon as possible after your project wraps up. Remember: memories fade quickly, and you don’t want to lose valuable insights.
  2. Find the Root Cause: Understanding the root cause of an issue is critical. If an important mass email didn’t get the intended results, you might assume it was not well crafted. But maybe the message would have been more effective if managers had delivered it to their direct reports.
  3. Share Your Findings: Create a short slide deck or report with an Executive Summary. Include the good, the bad, and the ugly (be sure to give your team credit for what you did well). Share it with the entire team and appropriate stakeholders. You’ll be better equipped for future work – and you’ll be driving the success of future projects in your organization.

Communication Insight 

Today’s pace is demanding. When we finally finish a project, it can be tempting to immediately move on to the next to-do. It’s important to take the time to debrief so you can take those learnings to your next project.

Need help planning your debrief session? Contact us.





  1. Dear O’Keefe Group. I work in Senior Management for Interior Metals Inc. in Brooklyn N.Y. We just had a major restructuring in our company and had very little information sent out to our employees.The information that was sent out was weeks after the restructuring.As a result thing were in chaos for all that time.I feel that the information in the article written by one of your writers Darlene Arroyo would have helped my company go through the implementation process more effectively. Keep up the good work.
    Thank you Gary Fomuke

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