Mission or Event Briefing Outline

Mission or event briefing outlinenote: article first appeared in February 2015

Why this a subject for a post?

Have you ever had to give a group of people information for an event?  How about for a mission or task?  How about just inform some folks on what is happening that day?  If you have, what format did you use?  If you haven’t done it yet, but will…what format would you use? How will you organize your briefing presentation?tool in the toolbox for leaders

This post is designed to explain exactly what you need to do to provide a high-quality and informative briefing to a group of people.  It is based on a long-standing successful model used in all major emergency/disaster incidents by emergency responders.  It is another tool in the toolbox for you to use.

This is used for a briefing. Notice the root word is “brief”. DO NOT drag this meeting out. It should cover just enough details that everyone has a clear picture of what should happen. Everyone involved doesn’t need to have every minor detail. The Leader’s Intent is the most important piece of information. Leader’s Intent let’s everyone know when it will be done and what it will look like when it is done. In other words, without Leader’s Intent, no one would ever know the mission/activity is done because no one ever told the people involved what “done” looks like.

StopwatchThe whole briefing, even on a complicated mission, should never take more than 20 minutes. Once you hit the 10-minute mark you will start losing people’s attention. Do not let people involved in providing parts of the briefing ramble on; stop them. Best way to address that is to tell them clearly ahead of time exactly what information they are responsible for sharing during the briefing and how much time they will have. Normally 1 – 4 minutes each.

Don’t let detailed questions from the audience takeover the meeting. Major, large-scale questions need to be addressed but not minor questions. Example #1: Do you expect a tornado to hit during the mission? Answer that one. Example #2: I can’t eat any gluten and I get swollen feet if I do. I need….. Stop them! Tell them to see the logistics person after the briefing to handle food and meal issues.Mission or event briefing outline

If the Operational Detail part has more hardcore information with multiple moving parts involved then consider a post-briefing “break-out” meeting for the operations folks. Example: We will have two groups; Group 1 is responsible for filling the sandbags, Group 2 is responsible for transporting and the placement of the bags. Anyone over the age of 50 is in Group 1, anyone 50 and younger is in Group 2. Tom there {finger pointing to Tom} is in-charge of Group 1, Mike over there {finger pointing to Mike} is in charge of Group 2. They will hold a break-out meeting with their respective groups right after this briefing. Group 1 will meet in the NE corner of the parking lot, Group 2 will meet in the SE corner by the tree. And you’re done…stop!

Briefing a group

  1. Briefing purpose. State why the briefing is being held. Example: We are here this morning to go over the operational details for putting sandbags at the church to protect the building from potential flooding. Joe Brandon will be in charge today.
  2. Current situation. Briefly outline what the current state of affairs is that is driving the mission. Example: We have received 4” of rain in the last 2 days. The church is threatened with flooding within the next 12 hours if we don’t place sandbags in the parking lot to divert the water that is flowing from across the street into the parking lot.
  3. Leader’s intent. The person leading the briefing then states what the mission looks like upon successful completion. Normally the intent should be stated in as little as one sentence and no more than three. Example: When we are done today we will have placed enough sandbags in the parking lot to divert all the current and expected water flow away from the building.  When we are done there there will be no threat of flooding the church building. And it is especially important that we will do that without getting anyone hurt.
  4. Operational details. The person in charge of the actual operational activities then briefly explains what will be happening and when. Example: We will be ready to depart the Walmart parking lot by 0800. We will rally at the church no later than 0845 and make individual work assignments at that point. We will place sandbags in the northwest corner of the parking lot and divert the flow of water around the west side of the parking lot away from the church building. We expect to be done no later than 1500. Everyone will be free to travel home directly from the church.  No need to meet here after the work is completed. Does anyone have any questions, thoughts, issues, or concerns about what we are doing?
  5. Logistics needs. Whoever is in charge of logistics presents pertinent information regarding expected or potential logistical issues. Example: We need to all fuel-up before departing, lunches will be provided at the church by the women’s group, and the sandbags are being delivered by the local fire department. The bags should be there by the time we arrive. The truck full of sand will wait until they get a call from me before delivering the sand. I will call them when we leave here for the church.  For lunch, if you any have special diet restrictions see me afterwards. If there are any other logistical needs see me after the briefing as well.
  6. Communications. Whoever is responsible for communications will then briefly give an overview of the communications arrangements. Example #1: We will use cell phones for communications. Operation’s cell phone number is….   My cell phone number is…. For logistics call…..  Example #2: We will use FRS channel 2 to keep in contact while traveling. Channel 3 will be for operational issues at the church. Channel 4 will reserved for logistics to use. If you don’t have the channel frequencies already programmed into your radio see me after the briefing.
  7. Safety. Quickly review any safety concerns that will be present during the mission. Example: Be careful driving, the roads are slick from all the rain. Do not drive through water running across the road that is more than 6” deep. Also, if we hear any thunder that is within 5 seconds of our location, or if we see any lightening we will get back in our vehicles and wait it out for 30 minutes.  John will give us the all-clear when it is safe to return to work.
  8. Wrap-up. The “leader” then gets back up and closes the briefing with a very brief conclusion. Example: I want to thank everyone for coming out on a rainy morning when there is plenty of college football to watch. We need to get this done or the church will be flooded and heavily damaged if we don’t. I want us to stay safe and enjoy working together. Thank you again and please come see me if you have anything that could help us today. See you at the church.

Leaders IntentThe “briefing” is an essential element of any mission. If folks don’t know what is happening, what is expected of them and what success will look like, then they are being cheated and the mission will more than likely fail.

The key is giving enough information that everyone feels comfortable to get to work, but not so overloaded with information that folks get confused. Use the breakout sessions to give the detail information.  These breakouts would be the smaller groups of folks that are assigned to different areas or functions of the overall work project.

To get an idea on how much information to provide – think about what you would like to know. That will get you started. Also, write down the general info that you want to present. Makes it easier to stay on track and not miss passing on any vital info.

Lastly, a little humor also helps. But not too much or the “tone” of the mission may be compromised.

Real “lastly”…Why do you need to know how to give a briefing?  If you don’t know how to do it right, you will probably do it it incorrectly.  And if your people don’t know what is going on, if they don’t have all of the right information, how do you expect them to be successful?  When you give your people the right information in the right format…you are giving them one of the tools they need to succeed.




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Decision Fatigue

Decision Fatigue stress decision makingnote: first appeared in March 2015

So I came home, walked in the door, plopped down on the couch, turned on the TV and started watching a show. I have no idea what show it was, no idea who the cast was or even if it was in color or black and white. Then my wife walked in about 15 minutes later. I was quiet and barely said “hello.”

The dogs greeted her, she set her bag down, walked over and kissed me on the cheek. So far so good; then it went downhill real quickly, she started to talk to me. Oh boy, wrong move.

First she asked me how my day went, did I stop and get milk on the way home, and did I remember we had a meeting that night with some friends. Before I could really get much out of my mouth she then asked me if we would be able to do… That is when I asked her if we could talk about it later, for now I just wanted to relax. She then started asking why I needed to relax, did I have a bad day? Oh boy, wrong move…Decision Fatigue stress decision making

I finally just told her in my day-job command voice that I just wanted to relax and we could talk about all those things later. And that was a wrong move on my part. Fifteen minutes later she was still asking me questions and I was still telling her I just wanted to relax. Sound familiar?

I was suffering from “decision fatigue” in a big way and I had no idea that I was…suffering from it. I had never even heard of such a thing then, now I have.

Decision fatigue is a psychological phenomenon that has only been in the research and discovery phase for about four years now. However, its effects have been felt for many thousands of years.

Decision fatigue manifests itself in:

  • Poor quality decisions
  • Impulsive decisions
  • Paralysis in decision making
  • Reduced self-regulation

Decision Fatigue stress decision makingDecision fatigue is caused by making decisions. Yes, you read that right. If you were doing hard physical work all day, far beyond what you were used to doing, there would come a point where you would become physically exhausted and unable to continue the work. The very same thing happens in your mind when living one of those days where you find yourself having to make continuous decisions all day long. And the more stressful the decisions are, the more wear and tear on your brain. Eventually your brain starts having real problems making good-quality decisions and will ultimately completely shut down your ability to make decisions at all.

Yes, all decisions take energy whether they be simple decisions or complex decisions. Stressful decisions take more energy than easy decisions. “Do you drink the white milk or the chocolate milk with breakfast?” is an easier decision. “Do we take a chance on this firefighting tactic and increase the risk of life safety?” is a much tougher and more stressful decision and thus takes far more energy.

Decision FatigueMaking a decision at breakfast will come easier than one in the evening. Why? Because you’ve been working your brain all day making decisions and you brain is more tired in the evening. If those decisions you’ve been making all day are stressful then you will be mentally exhausted and the decision you make will make in the evening be of lesser quality. Alternatively, you may become paralyzed and unable to make any decision at all.

“What would you like for dinner sweetheart?”

“I don’t care.”

“No sweetie, really, what would you like to eat tonight?”

“I don’t care at all. Whatever sounds good to you is fine with me.”

“Well, it sounds like you had a rough day. I would like to fix you whatever you would like to make you happy.”

“I don’t a crap what you fix or even if we eat tonight!”

Ah yes, marital bliss. I would never admit that this conversation ever took place in my home or vehicle. But maybe you Decision Fatigueknow of someone that has had this experience – decision fatigue.

So how does that affect us during an incident? Every day, all day and in ways you may not have thought about it. We find ourselves having to constantly make decisions throughout the day. Some decisions are significant, other more trivial, but all are important in one way or another. Understanding the physiological issues is the first step to reduce decision fatigue.


Here are the ways to reduce decisions fatigue:

  1. Understand and accept that it is real.
  2. Reduce the number of decisions you make. You can do that in a number of ways –
    1. Make leader’s intent clear and use subordinates, allowing them to make decisions for their area of responsibility.
    2. Make it clear that if someone brings you a problem, they are also responsible for bringing you a solution (or at least an idea).
    3. Have “habits” that make a decision for you rather than going through an entire decision making process.
  3. Move important decisions to earlier in the day.
  4. Make decisions a head of time and use predetermined trigger points to implement those decisions.
  5. Water, stay hydrated, and that also includes electrolytes.
  6. Eat and keep your glucose levels up but not spiked.
  7. Rest; get good quality sleep and take breaks. Any sleep and any breaks are better than none.
  8. Don’t over analyze a problem before making a decision. Use the minimal amount of high-quality information and then choose the first “right” decision. Notice I didn’t say choose the “best” option or the “ultimate” option. Over analyzing doesn’t do anyone any good and just adds to the stress of making a decision.
  9. Know that decision fatigue happens to everyone and that includes you. You are not immune to decision fatigue so take the necessary steps to avoid it.

Failure to mitigate decision fatigue can manifest itself as:Decision Fatigue stress decision making

  1. Making a costly decision based on impulse vs. logic and reason. You might just not want to “deal with it” so you make a decision quickly, too quickly, to get the decision over with and out of the way. Few of us like inducing pain on ourselves, especially mental pain and anguish. When suffering from decision fatigue we are more likely to make any decision, even it if it is a bad decision, just to relieve ourselves from the pain associated with the decision making process.
  2. A serious manifestation of decision fatigue can occur as decision paralysis. This is where a person just won’t make a decision. The amount of incoming information is overwhelming and the decision process just becomes too much to handle. At that point a person can shut down and become incapable of making any decision at all. The ramifications of decision paralysis can be fatal if taken to the extreme; costly at a minimum.Stressful environment
  3. Lastly there is the “self-regulation” side effect to decision fatigue. This can be very ugly and personally costly. Researchers have found a direct correlation between decision fatigue and poor decision making in a person’s life. Examples would be; substance abuse (including alcohol abuse) and sex-based dalliances. In some circles individuals who were considered “high speed – low drag” leaders were at particular risk at suffering from self-regulation problems.

Prepper GroupStressful environments where decision making is demanded of you can be mentally costly to you. Understanding decision fatigue and appropriate mitigation options can go a long way towards keeping you in the game and performing at acceptable levels. And “acceptable” means safe and productive in the field where your people depend on you.

Don’t neglect (i.e. ignore) decision fatigue…it cost you too much.





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No reproduction or other use of this content 
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See Content Use Policy for more information.