Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Over the last several months, we’ve seen one client use this tool to great effect. Brief-Backs are rather simple management tools that are still in favor in some parts of the military. Essentially, they are employee visits to their senior management or leadership to brief them back on their operational status. Here are some guidelines regarding Brief-Backs.

  • Use them sparingly. Only do them for the most important events such as when a big regulatory inspection is about to occur. Frequent use destroys their gravitas.
  • Do them to understand the ‘readiness’ of the inspectable team/department/division.
  • The higher the better. What we have found is that the greater the ‘status’ difference between the parties, the more effective they are. For instance, we witnessed a Site Vice President call in the front-line supervisors of a large maintenance department. The impact would have been muted if it were a Brief-Back to a Manager as opposed to the Site Vice President.
  • Keep them formal, short, and HIGHLY intrusive. Brief-Backs should have some level of formality. We’ve seen examples where the reporting group stands, and the senior executive/leader sits. Maybe the most important characteristic of a strong Brief-Back is asking highly engaged and intrusive questions as in the following examples.
    • Where will this inspection fail?
    • What question am I not asking?
    • What should keep me up at night about the visit that is about to happen to your team?
    • What aren’t you telling me that I should know?
    • What does success look like? Do you know what ‘good’ looks like?
    • Before you leave, give me one thing that you will do differently or better for this upcoming visit or inspection.
    • How do you know you are ready?
    • Have you done a rehearsal?
    • Does everyone know how important this is? How do you know?

Brief-Backs are a good way to communicate the essence of accountability. When used properly, they can serve as tune-up before some big event such as a regulatory inspection. For more on Brief-Backs and other simple, high-impact management tools, reach out to Robin Bichy, one of ELP’s original partners at 703.999.5676 or at