Please visit our home site at

Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Assess, Address, Debrief

by Robert Weber

I failed my way to success.
-- Thomas Edison

Assess, Address, Debrief

We often use little phrases as mnemonics... simple reminders to do certain things in a certain order. Especially when spray is flying and panic threatens to creep in from the edges, numbing the mind.

One of the most useful and often used is assess, address, debrief.

Whether approaching the morning stove for breakfast with coffee... whether leaving anchor... whether skirting a suddenly lee shore... This phrase reminds us to size up the situation and make a decision. Execute that decision. Then review the results.

It's not necessary to do things in just this order. We might cycle through each several times in the course of even a simple project. But it reminds us to take those steps, rather than just wing it.

These three sit well with us, though any alternative would work as well. Dig it, do it, review it?? Anything you can and do remember works.


Look the situation over.

What is the challenge? Brainstorm solutions and winnow them out. Does everything work together? What are our resources? What's on hand, and what's to be gathered? What's the order of approach? And so on and on.

This phase can drag out, in complex situations, for months or years. Or it can be accomplished with a glance, especially as experience grows. In an emergency, sometimes a glance is all you get. But take what you can.

One point we constantly remind ourselves... assessment IS moving us toward the goal. It may look like taking a nap, or sitting around doing nothing. But this is where one determines what needs to be done, and how we intend to go about it.

Speaking for myself, I prefer not to rush it.


Here's where we roll up our sleeves and leap into action! Put the plan to work. Git 'er done!

When the assessment is thorough, address rolls along with dispatch. If not, it can be a stop-and-start affair, interleaved with reassessments. That can be okay... suits some tasks better than others.


Anke and I spent several years in and around a town, where we served on Emergency Medical Services teams.

The whole team would get together weekly and we'd debrief the responses for that week. What went well? What went not well? What can be improved? Do we need more training in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? Do they need revision?

Debriefing helps to identify mistakes or deficits, and to learn from them.

Mistakes are part of our landscape. If we let them, they can teach us. Without them, our procedures remain narrow and inflexible. They show us where we need to focus, and often, what to do to remedy them.

Mistakes and their debrief have nothing to do with fault or blame, and everything to do with nudging ourselves toward improved performance. Extended ability. Heightened efficiency...

Procedural, not personal.


These three work together in synergy.

Any one of them, alone, is fairly worthless. All plan, no do is a pipedream.  All do with no plan results in a lot of thrashing around. All debrief is annoying.

Any two is an improvement, but still limited. Without assessment, there's no point in debriefing what you do. Without addressing, there's no point at all. Without debriefing, we don't learn.

Three's the charm.

1 comment: