The Informative Brief

How can we effectively brief our bosses, our peers, and other stakeholders to educate them on important issues, and in the end, achieve our goals? 

A senior civilian official in the military health system was at a surgical conference with a young Navy colleague. They chatted, and in the course of their conversation the Navy surgeon mentioned some exciting things that he was doing in his clinic to improve access, operating room utilization and quality of care.  The civilian official asked the younger man to prepare a talk to present to a group of senior leaders. Eventually word of this arrangement spread throughout the levels of command and my team was tasked with making sure that the brief accomplished its purpose.

The Navy surgeon was smart, industrious, and enthusiastic about his team’s accomplishments. Their record was impressive, providing more patient care with better outcomes, higher satisfaction and fewer resources than before. Operating room utilization improved, and the surgical fellowship, threatened by poor case mix and volume, was on firmer ground.

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Briefing Senior Leaders

How to brief (make a presentation to) your boss?

One of the most daunting tasks faced by junior officers in the military, and subordinates in any organization, is how to formally communicate with their boss and other senior leaders. Some senior leaders are easy to communicate with; they welcome open discussion and make those briefing them comfortable. Others are hard to communicate with, and as people progress up the ranks they find that senior leaders become harder and harder to brief.

This is not because senior leaders are bad people morally, they are certainly not worse than others on average. It is not because they are stupid or lazy; senior leaders have to be relatively intelligent and ambitious or they wouldn’t make it to senior levels. Rather it is because they are very busy people who don’t have time for the unprepared, the uninterested, the verbose, and the comic. They expect their subordinates to bring them trustworthy information, problems and solutions. Such leaders don’t have the time or the ability to double the information they are given, and they can’t fix everything, regardless of their position.

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