Debriefing after an Emergency

Diverse Business People on a Meeting

Learning from an Emergency plan gone bad.

Professor Amy C. Edmondson in her Harvard Business Review (HRB) article “Strategies for Learning from Failure” talks about strategies to improve when things go wrong; usually when a workplace emergency occurs something went wrong well before it happened.

How can we truly learn from emergency plans that do not unfold the way we expected them to?

Well there should always be a formal debrief after a workplace emergency, but what is the value of a formal debrief or root cause analysis if the organization has a culture that refuses to learn from failure. Below is a quick summary of Professor Edmondson’s ideas on how to truly learn for workplace failures.

Click here to watch the video clip and also to read the article by Professor Edmonson.

Here are her main points:

  1. The blame game – don’t play it
  2. Overcome the false dichotomy – we all state we want to get to the root cause of the problem, but we really fear the potential truth
  3. Learn the skill of how to debrief a failure
  4. Embrace early warning analysis of failure
  5. You can always learn from big or small emergencies
  6. Create an environment where people are free to speak, and frame the work accurately
  7. Have a formal control system to learn from emergencies

By implementing these ideas or strategies an organization will develop risk management behaviours such as: hazard reporting, investigating near misses before they become an emergency, and learning to prevent workplace emergencies from happening.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe this statement to be true “most organizations state they want to learn from mistakes, but few truly do?” If you believe it to be true, explain why? If you don’t why?
  2. Research a recent workplace emergency, practice using the 7 steps above a write up an action plan to prevent the workplace emergency.



Leave a Comment