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Performance Hack - Fighter Pilots Debrief EVERYTHING

If you are serious about improving your business every day, you need to be analysing everything you do.

“Everything?” you ask…


Every single time I climbed down from the cockpit of an F/A-18, the routine was the same. Sign the jet back in to maintenance. Walk to life support section and remove my helmet, mask, life preserver and G suit. Return to the squadron, assess my Heads Up Display tapes to ‘validate my shots’, and then debrief.

In the debrief, every decision and action was analysed for error or opportunity to improve. For a large, complex mission (eg fighting our way into a target, dropping bombs, then fighting our way back home again) the debrief may involve more than a hundred pilots and take hours. For the shortest and simplest, it might be 30 minutes.

Fighter squadrons, like all other elite organisations, are in a perpetual state of improvement. Searching for weakness and error becomes part of a fighter pilot’s DNA…I can’t remember EVER walking away from a mission without debriefing.

The aim is ‘FLAWLESS EXECUTION’…a lofty goal we know we will never achieve, but which provides the laser-like focus to improve every day.


It’s a closed loop…the task isn’t finished until we have identified what needs to happen next time to improve. Sometimes the improvement will require a simple and minor change to our own individual execution, and other times, it's clear that a change to ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ is needed.

But…the aim is, “Let’s not let that same mistake happen again.”

If your business conducts discreet tasks, (opening a new restaurant, buying and absorbing another business, building a bridge), then you should be analysing every single decision and action that was taken along the way to help you improve the execution next time.

If you or your business carries out constant activity and it’s hard to pinpoint a time when a task starts and stops (trading crypto, managing a hotel, running a palliative care centre), then you should be having regular ‘sit downs’ with key staff to analyse the recent period of activity. (A week of activity is a good time period as a default).

Importantly, fighter pilot debriefs are highly organised, very efficient and have mechanisms to allow mistakes to be identified without blame. More on that in a later blog…

If you want to continuously improve, you MUST have structures that analyse execution.

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