!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Streamlining Preparation of the Commander's Brief

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Streamlining Preparation of the Commander's Brief

The March issue of the US Naval Institute Proceedings contains a reminder of why I decided to call my company "Streamline." The article in question — "Improving the Commander's Brief" — discusses yet another instance of a communication process that offers considerable opportunity for saving on preparation and distribution time, with no sacrifice either of the clarity of the messages, or of the completeness with which the intended audience is reached.

Authors Terry McFarlane (USAF ret), Woody Henderson (USN ret), Pam Kelley, and Sam Landau1 have taken a close look at how daily "commander's briefs" are typically produced in the US Navy. Based on their research, they have devised a straightforward five-part method Navy staff can follow to make preparation and distribution of the briefs more effective. (The article is available online to Naval Institute members.)

A commander uses the commander's brief to explain his/her intentions concerning current and future activities. Specifically, the brief helps establish
daily synchronization that allows orders, missions, and plans of action to be communicated. The brief is typically built in PowerPoint, organized by department [engineering, combat systems, etc.] and presented each morning.
Using the mnemonic "USAIL," McFarland, Henderson, Kelley, and Landau recommend these five adjustments to the preparation and distribution process:
  • Use the Knowledge Web — K-Web is a Navy database that can accommodate uploaded briefings either in PowerPoint format or in HTML. Anyone needing to retrieve a brief can do so generally faster than if the PowerPoint version of the briefing is distributed via email. Furthermore, storing briefs on K-Web facilitates updating.

  • Standardize and simplify the information presented — There should be a standard, editable template for organizing core topics and content.

  • Adopt best practices — In addition to using a template, those preparing the brief should keep its length to about a half-hour.

  • Improve collaboration — Time savings can "be achieved through improved coordination and collaboration within work centers, departments, and across the ESG/CSG [expeditionary strike group/carrier strike group].

    "Because brief preparation involves many steps (research, data collection, analysis, slide building, review, coordination, final build), each department and staff should take a closer look at its internal processes to identify areas for consolidation and streamlining." The authors also discuss opportunities for better collaboration at the strike group and coalition levels. (The coalition level involves non-US forces.)

  • Lean (pare down) the process — The idea is to eliminate both unnecessary steps and unnecessary variability in the preparation and distribution process.
The authors estimate that, in addition to improving the quality of commanders' briefs, the USAIL method would avoid costs of at least $5.1 million a year.

Henderson, Kelley, and Landau are assigned to the Human Performance Center Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Detachment in San Diego. McFarlane, the principal researcher and analyst for this project, used to be at the Human Performance Center SPAWAR, and is now at the US Air Force Academy.


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