Conducting a "specific" briefing
"During my 27-year career, I had the honour of commanding several frigates of the French Navy (Chevalier Paul, Surcouf and Forbin). I would like to describe here the structure of a standard pre-exercise briefing within a Navy crew." (Thomas FRAIOLI)
Crew spirit (Team Spirit / Cohesion) is a key element of military crew performance.
Briefing objective: The briefing is a moment of exchange to eliminate doubts (from the sailor to the senior officers).
Duration: This will depend on the level of complexity of the exercise (2 hours for a Sanitary Evacuation or 10 minutes for a simple shooting exercise).
Meet in person
We bring together all those responsible for actions to be carried out (searching for a man overboard, firing a cannon, safe navigation, firing an air missile, etc.). The meeting is not limited to the officers and NCOs, but includes the sailors in charge of the actions.
The meeting is always done standing in a circle.
The speaker stands either in the centre or often near the screen, to project information.
Everyone has the responsibility to clarify their role or that of others to remove all doubts.
Ranks are kept (to encourage noble stance and to better identify roles).
Presenting the parameters of the action
The first step of the briefing is the presentation of the parameters of the overall action, by the Commander or person in charge of the action.
The topics that are covered in order are:
- Environment (Weather, Traffic in the area, Enemies & Friends, Engine & Electrical configuration, Type of communication used)
- "Manning" or role assignment (who does what?)
- Chronology of actions (At time H, here is what is happening)
Present the course of actions
Each action leader details the actions they will take, which improves clarity of roles and objectives.
It is strongly encouraged that officers ask follow-up questions to improve common understanding of the objectives. For example, "At the time of such and such an action, "such and such a present" what do you think is the most critical phase?"
The advantage of this practice is that it is very empowering (those who will DO the action, EXPLAIN it to others) and effectively reduces the risk of perception gaps.
The What Ifs
The purpose of this moment is to scan the critical situations to clarify the procedures to be followed.
This phase is done by following a table that has been completed by the persons in charge of the action, or the project manager, when faced with a certain type of situation.
- What if "a man falls overboard" during a manoeuvre?
- What if "during this manoeuvre, a man can no longer occupy his position in combat"?
- What if "there is a technical problem (helm damage)?
We go over them all together. We put ourselves in the perspective that this will happen and we re-explain the procedures.
This is not a quiz. The objective is to remind ourselves of the procedures to follow in case of need.
The objective of this phase is the presentation by the commander of the most critical phases of the operation and to encourage exchanges between the crew members.
This is an important phase of exchange for mutual adjustments & commitments between the crew members (OK if you do "A", then we will do "B").
Round Table discussion and closing
To close the briefing, the commander always ends with an opportunity for all crew members round the circle to speak, in order to clear up any remaining doubt.
Personally, I always ask the same question before starting the round of expression, "For you, what is the most critical moment?"
Tip for the person running the action
On a personal note, if something went wrong during the briefing with a participant, I would take a post-briefing aside to give a mini-feedback on the quality of the briefing.