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Team Briefing provides a consistent and measurable process for conveying strategic and operational information, and answering feedback questions, throughout an organization.
Table of contents
1.4. Subject headings
1.5.1. Core brief
1.5.2. Local brief
1.5.3. Feedback form
1.8. Core brief example
1.9. Local brief example
1.10. Feedback form example
1.11. Process steps
1.12. Rules for briefers
Team Briefings 
Team Briefing is a powerful method of enabling communications up and down the management structure of any organization with a number of management levels. Team Briefing was developed by the British Industrial Society (now called the Work Foundation) during the mid-20th century, particularly the 1960's, and introduced in the mid 1970's. This is a guide to how Team Briefing works, with samples of the Team Briefing documents.
Team Briefing provides a consistent and measurable process for conveying strategic and operational information, and answering feedback questions, throughout an organization. Team Briefing ensures that staff at all levels receive information that is relevant to them, which is a mixture or corporate and local issues. The Team Briefing system is capable of being monitored by someone given responsibility to do so, including the satisfactory feedback of answers to questions at all levels.
The Team Briefing model is flexible provided the essential principles are retained. So it can be called something else by the adopting organization. The documentation can, and ideally should, be adapted and personalised for the adopting organization.
Team Briefing is not meant to replace normal essential day-today communications between team leader and staff - day-to-day communications should continue as normal (assuming 'normal' means they're happening - if not, then they must).
Many companies today think that email and mobile phone communications can solve all of their communications problems, but they can't. Team Briefing works because it's face-to-face, which is essential for all sensitive communications. (Remember Dr Albert Mehrabian's researchestablished that 55% of meaning is conveyed in facial expressions, and 38% of meaning is conveyed in the way that something is said. Only 7% of the meaning is conveyed in the words themselves.)
Refer also to the Johari Window model for personal and group communications and awareness.
- primarily to enable and improve downward, upward and lateral (sideways) communications throughout the organization
- prevent rumour and 'the grapevine' from gaining credibility
- enable clarity of direction and information from the top
- enable questions and suggestions to be fed back from all staff to the top
- develop greater awareness and involvement at all levels
- avert tendency towards 'mushroom management' (keeping people in the dark and covering them with manure)
- create a culture of open communication
- clear blockages and misunderstandings
- explain financial, commercial and strategic issues
- develop a shared sense of mission, vision, collective aims and reasons why
- cease reliance or dependence on assumptions
- face-to-face group meetings in teams of 4 - 15 people
- meetings last around 30 minutes
- held by team leaders, normally the team's manager or supervisor
- held at least once a month, dates set and notified well in advance
- MD/CEO or board of directors issue a 'core management brief' every month, covering main strategic, financial, commercial, policy and people issues.
- Every team leader/manager/supervisor then incorporates these Core Brief points into their own Local Brief covering subject headings: Progress, Policy, People, and Points for action, plus general information
- meetings and briefing process is monitored, via records and managers attending briefings
- before introducing Team Briefing, the basic model needs adapting and tailoring to meet the logistical and operational needs of the organization concerned, including forms, precise process, and very importantly, a training and introduction plan for all briefing staff
- Progress - corporate and local performance against target and standards, including financial, commercial and quality issues.
- Policy - procedures that need introducing, explaining, reinforcing or changing.
- People - issues concerned with people in the company and the team.
- Points for action - priorities for the next month for the team and the organization.
The written briefing details from the CEO or board which will be passed on to every employee at every Team Briefing meeting. Also called the Core Management Brief. The Core Brief is incorporated by team leaders into their own Local Briefings.
A separate written brief prepared by each team leader, manager or supervisor, for his or her own team, containing local issues relevant to that team. Team leaders check and agree their Local Brief with their line manager at their own briefing session at which they receive the core brief and a local brief from their boss.
A separate document which enables the questions arising at briefings to be recorded, answered, whether at the time or later, and that process to be monitored.
- every month the CEO or the board of directors agree a 'Core Brief'
- the 'core brief' covers the above subject headings and will include items about financial and statistical performance; organizational policy; strategy, business direction and market conditions; successes and failings; changes in senior people's roles and positions
- line managers from director-level down, add local interpretation or explanation to the core brief where applicable
- line managers and team leaders also prepare their own 'Local Brief' under the above headings
- briefing meetings cascade down the organization, each one soon after the briefer's attendance at their own briefing meeting, at which team leaders revise and get approval from their bosses for their own local briefs.
This fictional company below is not exactly a paragon of business excellence, so it's easy to see that it should benefit from Team Briefing. Moreover one can imagine how their problems could go from bad to worse without suitable interpretation of the core brief as it cascades down the organization. The humour is used in the examples to lighten a rather dry subject, and to emphasise the necessity for thoughtful Local Brief interpretation of what will often be quite formal, detached or even aloof central statements.
On a serious note - the Local Briefer has a responsibility to present the company line at all times, and not to be openly critical of company statements or policies. The Local Briefer has a responsibility to communicate in a relevant and positive way to his or her team, which obviously requires a reasonable level of skill in reconciling the aims and priorities of the company, with the needs and receptiveness of the team.
The sample templates are a guide only - design your own to suit your own situation.
The examples below do not suggest a specific layout or spacing; they suggest content. A useful set of 'best practice' real example forms, as used by Manchester University, is available free in pdf format on the free resources team briefing section, and this contribution is gratefully acknowledged.
|Team Briefing - Core Management Brief||Wobbly Machines Group Ltd|
|Originator: Paul de Uddervun MD||date:|
|Standing instructions (reminder) to each Team Briefer:||This brief is the core brief from the MD/CEO - add these points to your own local brief. Help your people to understand by expressing in the way you feel best. Use exact words where underlined. Encourage questions, make notes and ensure you provide answers using the feedback form. If you don't know the answer use the feedback form to pass question up the management line.|
|Core Brief - key points below:||Briefer's notes (add your own points below to use in your own Local Brief):|
|Results - We won the big South American consortium export contract and have already received an order for 20 of our new BigOneXL models for delivery in mid 2003. |
Year to date sales are 183% up on planned levels. Costs are within budget and profit is cumulatively 125% higher than planned. This is all excellent news.
|The new XYZ model will come to our site for final testing, subject to availability of the vital 2NX components. Can we therefore please improve on the delivery date for the 2NX components presently scheduled for late 2004. |
See the point below concerning re-submission of departmental results.
|Organization - We have completed the construction of a our new Leeds depot, which will take over the Central and Northern distribution from Birmingham. |
There are a number of problems in the new central computer system affecting business performance reporting. IT Director Mike Locstopt is co-ordinating the reconciliation and remedial project.
|B10, D19, and F27 transporters will not be able to use the Leeds depot until the Grade I listed Gothic archway has been widened. |
All departmental heads are asked to re-submit year-to-date figures to Head Office using local computer reporting systems, supported by manual reports.
|Policy - A new swipe-card security and entry system is being introduced at all sites over the next month. All staff are to keep their cards on their person at all times. |
The visitors car-park spaces are for visitors only.
Security cards are not to be taken into the showers as immersing them in water will disable the microchip.
Night staff can use the visitors and directors parking places while the archaeological dig prevents access to the main car park.
|People - Rumours that Lord Falconer is joining the board as an non-executive director to oversee the sale of the Greenwich site are completely untrue. |
IT Director Mike Locstopt has resigned and will leave in one month.
Martha Oatsaw joins us as PR Director next month and will be based at our Leeds depot with special responsibility for the Gothic Archway Project.
We do not have a Greenwich site.
The company is not expecting any internal applications for the soon-to-be-vacant IT director's post and therefore began seeking external candidates two months ago.
Martha Oatsaw will be recruiting a new pa, hopefully from within the company - applicants should ideally have some experience in planning and conservation, and preferably Gothic architecture.
|Team Briefing - Local Brief||Wobbly Machines Group Ltd|
|Originator: Carrie Erbag - Packing Department Manager||date and time:|
|attendees and absentees:||Briefing Group Reference (if applicable):|
|Local Brief - key points below:||Briefer's notes with examples and answers to possible questions:|
|Progress - Overtime will be available with immediate effect to gear up for the new export contract. |
The Blue Shift Team is 25 points ahead of the other teams in this quarter's productivity league.
|The new swipe cards will help monitor overtime hours - Mike Locstopt's assistant will be visiting us next Tuesday to give training in the system's use. |
The winning teams gets to attend the Leeds depot opening. Please behave yourselves there and don't mention the central computer system.
|Policy - For security reasons you must all hand in your old security passes when the new swipe cards are introduced.|
Does anyone know where I put mine?
People - Pearl E Gates will be joining us next week as the new Health and Safety Officer.
Would Terry Finodeal please supervise Pearl's factory tour.
|Points of action - Can we have some suggestions please for team building activities after work during July. |
Please don't take mobile phones into the radiography section or the hazardous loading bay. This was a policy item last month but some people are still forgetting.
Maybe softball on the park? - check that the library windows have been repaired since the archery last week.
The loading bay fire report was submitted to the investigating authority last week and further prosecutions are anticipated.
The Feedback Form is a very flexible document. It must encourage and enable all briefers to understand and adhere to the organization's agreed rules on handling questions, noting comments and recording relevant details of briefings for monitoring purposes. It would be normal for a copy of the feedback from for each briefing to be given to the briefer's boss and whoever is responsible in the organization for monitoring the whole Team Briefing process. Examples of headings are shown on the sample form below, and are not exhaustive. This sample feedback form does not attampt to chow definitive layout - there isn't one. Size the sections for what you need. Some organizations prefer to have a separate attandance record. Some prefer a separate questions and answers preparation template. As with all the team briefing documentation, design materials that will work for your own situation, and the best wasy to do that is involve your own people.
|Team Briefing - Feedback Form||Wobbly Machines Group Ltd|
|Group reference:||(as applicable)|
|Attendees and absentees:||(alternatively use a separate record of attendance)|
|Questions/answers outstanding from last month:||(make this section as large as necessary)|
|Notes on reactions to briefing:||(as above)|
|Suggestions from group:||(as above)|
|Questions/answers from this briefing:||(as above)|
Team Briefing is a complex and very powerful process. It requires proper training for all briefers before introduction, and firm buy-in from the top, without which it will certainly fail.
It also requires a nominated senior person in charge, who will be responsible for monitoring and following up to ensure that the process is working properly and consistently across the organization.
Here is a basic project plan for the introduction of Team Briefing. There's a very strong emphasis on consulting with and involving all staff so as to personalise the process to fit the needs and situation of the organization, and to maximise buy-in and a sense of ownership.
To achieve maximum relevance and buy-in, try to involve all staff at suitable stages in the development. The process must be seen by your people to be their own - designed with their issues and practicalities in mind, as well as the management communications needs of the organization.
There are various ways to approach the introductioon of Team Briefing. Here's an example of how to approach the project.
- Survey all staff (very briefly, establish issues and the real 'what's in it for me?' factors, which form the basis of win-win). Analyse/interpret/report and agree findings and implications for the project. Focus-group consultation is an acceptable substitute if a survey is not practicable.
- To enable the project to be shaped and directed effectively there should be discussion between the MD or CEO and the management team to understand corporate aims, management issues, strengths, styles, practicalities, problems, skill levels, etc.
- Importantly, identify/agree a person responsible for the system and monitoring once it's up and running - the internal project manager - involve this person in running the workshop session(s) and ensure they have the necessary training and knowledge to oversee the team briefing system after its introduction.
- If beneficial/practicable, agree a small project team (not necessarily limited to 'team briefing' - there may be other linked communications issues that it is helpful to include in the initiative). A project team is not critical provided a good competent project manager exists - it's simply that the more people involved, then the better the ownership and sustainability.
- Workshop stage - format dependent on situation - possibly the whole management group (depending on size) for one day and then a couple of half-days follow-up, alternatively, smaller groups over several shorter sessions - this increases the opportunities for assignments between sessions, enabling processes and skills to be developed in a more tailored and relevant way. It also enables greater focus on practical application and real context. Managers also contribute and create far more when free from (perceived) executive influence/judgement, which means that generally the CEO and other directors should not attend all of the management workshops. It's easier to determine the make-up of the workshop groups and sessions after stage 2.
- Refining and designing system tools - if you need a quick and pragmatic solution, use off-the-shelf templates and refine them once introduced - if you need a more subtle tailored system and have the time to develop it then design your own forms via short workshop sessions, (or the project manager can design them based on requirements).
- Implement the system, ensuring you publish, for all staff, a guide on its purpose and operation with dates and responsibilities.
- Review and fine-tuning by project manager, followed by routine monitoring and periodic review (quarterly ideally) with CEO.
Allow 2-3 months from preparation to fine-tuning stage - in larger more complex organizations it will take longer. Make sure you set reasonable timescale expectations - these things always take longer than you think, especially to do properly. If it's not done properly it won't be sustainable or you'll need a lot of adjustment, which can confuse and disrupt. If there is anything less than 100% support from the CEO and board it won't work, and they need to understand what it is or they can't support it.
- Prepare - inform time, place, and prepare written brief and replies.
- Control the meetings in a relaxed informal way.
- Listen and understand - clarify where necessary - when others are talking.
- Keep communications adult to adult - never patronise or talk down.
- Keep good records.
- Always ensure questions are answered, even if you do not know the answer yourself.
- Always ensure that feedback is acknowledged.
- Never blame the company for policy or decisions.
- Support the team briefing process and always suggest improvements when you identify them.
- Team Briefing Template
- Feedback Form
- Preparation Template
- Core Brief Template
- Briefing Attendance Register
- Briefing Guide
- Briefing Guidelines
- Briefing Calendar
Many thanks to the University of Manchester for these resources.