About this podcast episode

🎙️ How can fighter pilot strategies change the way we deliver success?

In today’s podcast, James Murphy, a former fighter pilot turned entrepreneur, shares his journey from the cockpit to the boardroom. Discover how the concept of debriefs, derived from the military and part of Flawless Execution, transforms businesses to increase value.

Murph shares the critical role of debriefs in achieving success, emphasizing its power as a tool for continuous improvement and strategic alignment. Through real-world stories, Murph and Bill share how debriefs foster a culture of truth, accountability, and growth.

In this podcast, you will learn the following:

🎉 The importance of a nameless, rankless debrief that uncovers the truth and drives team performance

🏆 How debriefs turned around the Giants (a U.S. football team) to win the Super Bowl

✅ The significance of debriefing in avoiding task saturation and enhancing team performance

✅ How debriefs can facilitate adaptive learning, enabling teams to pivot and improve strategies based on real-world outcomes quickly


(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)

[00:00:00] Introducing James "Murph" Murphy

Bill Raymond: Hi, and welcome to the Agile and Action Podcast with Bill Raymond today, I’m joined by James Murphy or Murph. Hey Murph. How are you doing today?

James Murphy: Hey, Bill. Great to see you.

Bill Raymond: Murph you are the Managing Partner at Afterburner Capital, a Founder at Afterburner. You’re an investor, speaker and author. You’re also an 11 times Inc. 5,000 winner and Forbes Small Giant. Wow, that’s quite a number of accomplishments, but before we get started, could you introduce yourself a little bit, so everyone can learn a little bit more about you?

James Murphy: Absolutely, Bill. I don’t know if that’s the way I would introduce myself to anyone. So let’s get that out right now. But I’m an entrepreneur when it really comes down to it. I’m a dad, an entrepreneur, former fighter pilot, very passionate about business, but more importantly, really passionate about helping people in their own business journey.

James Murphy: So that’s where I find most of my joy.

[00:00:51] Understanding the Concept of Flawless Execution

Bill Raymond: In today’s podcast, we’re going to be talking about getting to the truth as opposed to artificial harmony. We’ll get into what that means, but you propose that one way to accomplish this is through what you call a debrief. However that debrief is part of an overall concept that you refer to as Flawless Execution. So let’s start there first. What is Flawless Execution? And then we can move on to the concepts of the debrief.

[00:01:16] Murph’s Journey from Fighter Pilot to Entrepreneur

James Murphy: Like I mentioned earlier, I was a fighter pilot and one of the epiphanies that I had when I first got into training to fly the F-15, which at the time was arguably the most sophisticated jet on the planet. I was actually raised on a farm in central Kentucky. I left the farm to join the air force and in 16 months, I was flying solo in that jet, a twin tailed supersonic military jet fighter.

James Murphy: It was just bad to the bone. And as I was lowering myself down in the canopy or in the cockpit, hanging on the canopy rail, I had an epiphany. And that was how does a normal guy like me, Jim Murphy from Shelby County, Kentucky, get into this position? And I realized, looking back on it, that I went through a series of frameworks that created absolute excellence, not only out of an individual like myself, but our team, our squadron, and even an entire enterprise, the United States Air Force.

James Murphy: And we were executing at the highest levels in the most VUCA complex environments on the planet, with one of the most diverse workforces, so that just really struck me. And I went, how did this happen? Even though we are operating in the overall DOD, probably one of the most inefficient operations on the planet, the government, how did these pockets of excellence happen?

James Murphy: Before I became a fighter pilot, I was a division one athlete, and then I went and worked in the corporate world for about a year and a half. I had a unique perspective there as well, because I said these frameworks, this drive towards mission outcomes and this ethos of flawless execution, this impeccable ethos, was built on purpose.

James Murphy: And it would have applied to me as a baseball player playing baseball at the University of Kentucky or me closing more deals, creating a better conversion rate or, driving my own entrepreneurial pursuits. So I vowed on that day to start studying this process and over the last 25 plus years, I’ve been traveling around the world.

James Murphy: We’ve named it Flawless Execution, written books about it, have taught it in many universities and taught many businesses probably put over two and a half million people through our training to teach them this simple process that we call Flawless Execution.

[00:03:23] The Importance of Debriefing in Flawless Execution

James Murphy: And the debrief is certainly one of the cornerstones to the simplicity of this.

James Murphy: But it was born and bred in the zero tolerance for error world of military, fighter pilots and air combat.

[00:03:33] Breaking Down the Flawless Execution Process

Bill Raymond: Previously, when we spoke, you talked about a number of different process steps involved.

Bill Raymond: That includes setting a mission objective, a brief, executing on that work, that brief, doing a debrief, which is the big topic of this conversation today, and then you execute and evaluate. Is that what you referring to when you talk about Flawless Execution?

James Murphy: That’s in the engine itself. The execution engine is what we call it. But the overall methodology process, heuristic, whatever you may want to call it, has three different parts. It has the part where we drive purpose. That’s where we pull and compel versus push people into the future that we design. You can’t You know predict the future, but you can design the one that you want and work backwards from there.

James Murphy: That’s how strategy is formulated, leaders intent, alignment. So that’s the purpose. And then before we get into the execution engine, which is what you just alluded to, below that is the platform and platforms are built on great people that are assessed in the right areas. Training that goes hand in hand with standards, which equates to scalability. But every action needs to be aligned towards the purpose and it needs to have a transparent, rigorous, simple process to get things done.

James Murphy: And we believe, and I learned this flying fighters before I went to fly any mission, first we planned. And the planning wasn’t a long range plan, it wasn’t where we visited the vision. It was how we were going to execute today or tomorrow. And it started with that mission objective, like you said. And then we looked at threats that stand in the way of that objective.

James Murphy: We look at resources we’re going to need to negate the threat. We bring in lessons learned from previous truth over artificial harmony debriefs, if you will, to accelerate our plan’s experience before we go execute, then we come up with a course of action. And this is accountability into the individuals, into the team’s approach, who is going to do what, by when.

James Murphy: Then we’re going to red team that plan at this point, bring in some fresh eyes, other fighter pilots that didn’t fall in love with our plan. And we’re going to red team that plan, come up with some more contingencies. And then we’ve got a great little plan. After that, we then brief the plan. Now what’s the brief all about?

James Murphy: We’ve already planned, but planning is about brainstorming. It’s about everybody collaborating and getting everybody on the same sheet of music, but eventually we have to execute and you can’t plan and execute at the same time. So we realize there’s a preparatory step to executing where true accountability comes in before we go launch our mission.

James Murphy: And that’s the brief. And that’s where the leader stands and everybody else sits. And we reiterate what we all agree to in the plan. So we refresh the plan one more time. We ask everybody, does anyone have any questions? Hopefully no one has a question at this point. So now as a leader, I can hold them accountable to what? The pre-brief plan. At a minimum, we can hold each other accountable to that.

[00:06:12] The Role of Task Saturation in Execution

James Murphy: But all of your listeners know that in a VUCA environment, the best plans cannot predict everything that’s going to happen in the here and now. So we actually go fly the mission and we get our nose bloody. And we realized there were gaps in our assumptions, i.e. the brief and the plan.

James Murphy: While we’re executing, we realize also that there’s this thing called task saturation that affects our performance. And task saturation, as it increases, errors increase and performance actually decreases. And I found that in most corporate environments, people are proud of the amount of task saturation they’re shouldering. They think it actually inhibits performance, but it’s just the opposite. It kills pilots. Task saturation is something that we need to talk about, train towards.

James Murphy: So we plan, we brief, we execute by eliminating task saturation, then as soon as we land, that’s where the truth comes in. We debrief. The debrief is the most important thing that we do. And what struck me as a fighter pilot is when I went into a debrief, even though the military is hierarchical and you have rank and you salute people and there’s reprimand for things that you do wrong, when we went into the debrief, all that went away.

James Murphy: It was nameless and rankless. It didn’t matter if there was a one star general in the room, or a brand new lieutenant, or a bunch of middle managers, captains in the room. When we debriefed and that door closed, it was truth over artificial harmony. The hierarchy went away. The rank structure went away.

James Murphy: Your experience levels were important, but not was ever going to get in the way of the truth. We would peel back the onion, do a root cause analysis in a true nameless, rankless environment for the betterment of what? The next mission. And the only thing that would come out of the debrief were lessons learned and these lessons learned were concrete root causes, not the active human errors, how or who made an error, but why, the team, the enterprise, the things that are the root cause, things like a lack of communication or better communication protocol or certain leadership tendencies that got in the way, or maybe it was an organizational issue.

James Murphy: If we can uncover that root cause, then when we roll it back into the next day’s plan, not only will our team execute not 3 to 5 percent better, which is what corporate America is happy with, but 30 40 50 even 60 or 70 percent better in one iteration. And oh, by the way, If that root cause is important enough, we could communicate it to the rest of the organization or create new standards to make them execute at a higher level.

James Murphy: So plan, brief, execute, debrief, and if you do that tighter and tighter, your team, your organization can actually catch up to the same rate of change in a VUCA environment or maybe even almost stay one step ahead of it.

Bill Raymond: Well, all this sounds very agile to me. We’re keeping in touch, we’re making sure that we’re continuously doing the right things and we’re circling back.

Bill Raymond: One of the things that really stood out for me when you were talking, was this whole concept of task saturation. It’s true. If we think that we’re going to just keep giving people work so that they’re continuously busy, that does not necessarily mean they’re going to produce more.

Bill Raymond: As a matter of fact, we might even be producing less because people just can’t stay at 110% all the time.

James Murphy: Absolutely. And it’s a human factorial issue. We flew fighters, we, we spent a lot of time training on when and where in the mission cycle or the business cycle, are you most likely to get task saturated? We’re the highest task loading areas. So we want to know about that before we jump in the cockpit. And then we want to build tools that will help us identify or eliminate task saturation. First, what types of task saturation is there? How does the brain react? One that we use in our seminars and our training is all the time is called channelized attention. And that’s where a team or an individual would channelize what seemingly is the biggest issue.

James Murphy: And the detriment of everything else. And we show a famous airline accident video, Eastern Flight 401 that happened many years ago. But it’s a famous airline accident where three highly trained crew members are flying a perfectly good airplane, but they have a burnt out light bulb in the cockpit. And they all three focused on this light bulb at such a level that they let a perfectly good airliner full of passengers fly right into the Everglades.

James Murphy: It’s a powerful example on how not only an individual, but a team can become channelized and that’s the way they react.

Bill Raymond: Going back to your definition of the debrief, I understand the value of this. It’s a nameless rankless meeting. Everyone goes into the meeting, if you will, at the same level and we work through what went wrong and what we need to do to fix it.

Bill Raymond: Now many of our listeners, which I’ll refer to as agile practitioners, they might refer to this as a retrospective. Where we look back and celebrate our wins over the last week or two, we look at what went wrong, and what are some of the improvements that we can make moving forward? It’s a number of different things that we’re doing.

Bill Raymond: Is that the right way to look at a debrief?

James Murphy: I believe our debriefs are much different than a retrospective an agile retrospective, but we teach a seven step methodology called STEALTH in our debrief. And in its essence, the S is Set a time and place to debrief.

James Murphy: It’s not on the calendar. It’s never going to happen, and we don’t debrief regular work. We only debrief objectives that are going to get us to our future strategic objectives, KPIs, etc.

James Murphy: So we’re going to debrief. We’re going to set the time and place. The T is set the Tone. It’s important to have a nameless, rankless environment where there’s no fear of reprimand, where people can freely admit errors or successes in front of each other, their peers, or their supervisors.

James Murphy: Rarely do we ever get to that point in business. So it’s the leader’s number one objective over time to create a culture during the debrief of a psychologically safe environment, so we can really get to the root cause, because that’s what’s keeping the team from uncovering the truth.

James Murphy: This is not a human resource activity. This is an activity to get better the next iteration in a mission. We set the tone and then after we set the tone, we analyze the execution.

James Murphy: We want to analyze the courses of action that we set out in our plan now that we have the results, or their gaps, or their errors. And many times those errors or gaps or even successes are active human errors by an individual that was part of the team, so certainly we have to get to that, but this is the magic of the debrief, the art of the debrief.

James Murphy: It’s not about really saying, Hey, Bill, you made this error. Why’d you screw up? It’s not about that at all. It’s like Bill, hey, I noticed that this happened and that’s happened to us before in the past, but let’s find out why this happened because maybe there were other contributing factors that would keep me and the rest of us from making an error like that in the future.

James Murphy: So let’s peel back the onion and find out why. And the why doesn’t have anything to do with you, Bill. It has everything to do with our environment, our team, our standards, our ethos. Let’s look at the "whys". So it’s really important to analyze the execution. And the whole purpose of analyzing the execution is to eventually get to a lesson learned.

James Murphy: And a lesson learned is a step by step protocol to address the why. It’s something that comes out of the debrief. It is the derivative. And a lot of times when you analyze these execution errors or successes, a pattern will develop, an error chain, if you will. And that’s where the real magic is. That’s where we create a step by step protocol to address that.

James Murphy: That’s the lesson learned. And that’s the only thing that leaves the debrief. And then the last thing that you do as a leader is ensure the team ends on a high note. A lot of times, debriefs focus on the errors versus the successes. So you, as a leader, want people very much looking forward to the next debrief and they understand why, and not dreading it.

Bill Raymond: Okay, so I can see the value of the debrief, but I keep thinking back to implementation if you will. So here we have this situation where we have this nameless rankless meeting, so we’re just leaving our titles at the door, and then we’re going to peel back the onion. And all of that sounds great, but here’s the challenge.

Bill Raymond: What if there are people in that room that are rank or even multiple ranks above you? People might feel uncomfortable in that kind of an environment, especially if something might be a little bit more targeted at them.

Bill Raymond: Could you address how you deal with those two situations?

James Murphy: Absolutely. And you have a very sophisticated listener base. They’re very familiar with agile and retrospectives and maybe even debriefing. But, it’s important that we debrief only the mission objective. That’s it. This isn’t a meeting. It’s a debrief. So that’s where you have to start. And then when you analyze the execution errors and successes. First, you have to ask the question. How did this occur? And when you ask that question, typically you can go right back into the plan and a person’s name and an actual action or activity he or she was responsible for.

James Murphy: We want to know how it occurred. Now, like I said earlier, we want to get past that very quickly because I made a mistake today and Bill, that could be you tomorrow. But more importantly, we want to ask the question why, and we have to ask the question more than once. I know our engineers out there go root cause analysis, ask why five times. Sure, we can ask it five times if you want, but you do need to ask why multiple times and really find out the root cause. And I find the LOTCD acronym to be pretty good for the buckets of root causes, leadership, organization, teamwork, communication, discipline, experience, and knowledge. Usually, we’ve found out the whys fall in one of those buckets.

James Murphy: Let’s say the why was there was an organizational issue that caused you, Bill, to miss a deadline. We want to know why. Is it because we just switched from Outlook to Google Calendars and everybody’s not up to speed?

James Murphy: Why did that happen? Was that because the leader, myself, didn’t communicate that and hold everybody accountable that on this particular day, we’re Google only? Why did that occur? So we’re going to keep going down until we find the true root cause, because when we go analyze another error or success and line it up next to them and another one, we may see a lot of commonalities.

James Murphy: Organization again. And when we ask the whys, we might find out the exact same thing is occurring. So it’s really important to get to that level in the debrief. I don’t know if I answered your question or not.

Bill Raymond: Yes, I think you did. These conversations can be really hard for anyone in a meeting. When you’re peeling back the onion, and you’re asking lots of questions. Sometimes people feel pointed at, they might feel a little defensive. They might want to push back just because they don’t like their name being mentioned as much. And this nameless, rankless environment will help with that.

Bill Raymond: So, I guess my question is this, how do you implement it? Because it’s easy to say ah, sure. I’m at this level and you’re a seven levels above me. And we’re just going to pretend like that doesn’t exist in the meeting because in real life it does exist. So, how do we give that space for people to have those interactions?

James Murphy: First, you have to get the leadership to buy into this methodology that you’re going to use, right? So you can bring in us to help you with that, or you can convince them that potentially rank, experience, level, other things, it’s getting in the way of truth. So we have to eliminate that. So as a leader, we have to set the tone.

James Murphy: And when we work with leaders, we simply say it’s a two step process and you have to set the tone for every single debrief, because people aren’t going to believe you for a while, depending on what kind of leader you are. It’s going to take them a while to warm up to this, oh, this is a debrief, this is my time to freely admit errors or mistakes or point other people’s errors or mistakes out, God forbid, for the betterment of the team.

James Murphy: It takes a while to get a team there. And you have to be a strong leader to get there. But first you have to set the tone in front of your team. So the first thing you have to do is go, okay, we’re debriefing this, let’s call it sprint for the last week. We’re going to revisit our mission objective.

James Murphy: As a leader, what are one or two things I could have done better as a leader and you got to sit and do some deep thought on it and they have to be real. Instead of you going right to the team. Why don’t you do inside outside criticism in front of your team. Here are two things I could have done better as your leader in the last week to help us accomplish the mission objective one and two.

James Murphy: And that’s not enough. If you really want to set the tone, then you go I’d like to hear from the team now that I’ve told you what I think I can do better. You all are out there working on this project as well. What do you think I could have done better as your leader on this mission objective? Not as the VP of sales or the VP of Ops, or as an overall leader in the company structure, but helping us lead this small team to get to this mission objective?

James Murphy: And people may be hesitant to admit right away, and that’s fine. Now it’s time to just pick somebody out. "Sue, you are right here neck and neck with this project with me this week. What’s one thing that you have for me? I really want to know. I’ve told you the two things that I think I could have done better in the last week, what’s one thing that you have for me?", and get what we call two or three at the max daggers coming back to you. And that’s it. And then shut down that part of the debrief, but every debrief starts like that. So over time, you will gain the trust of your team members.

Bill Raymond: Yeah, that’s a great idea. Opening up yourself to criticism will allow everyone else to feel a lot more comfortable.

[00:19:06] The Power of Debriefing: A Super Bowl Case Study

Bill Raymond: Now we’re getting to the end of this podcast and we’ve been talking about these debriefs for awhile, but I know you have some good case studies. Maybe you have one example that could drive home the importance of these debriefs and how they work in real life?

James Murphy: First of all, don’t just debrief without using a framework like our system framework or find one that’s proven. Don’t just go, would we do right? Would we do wrong? That’s not really a debrief. And the other thing is don’t debrief everything. People are going to get tired of coming to your debrief.

James Murphy: We’re not debriefing regular work. We’re not debriefing actual actions and activities. We’re debriefing the courses of action that were planned to get us to a preplanned mission objective that’s going to move the needle in the future.

James Murphy: But, we’ve got so many case studies.

James Murphy: I guess the one is one of my favorites is we got a call from Coach Tom Coughlin, who was the coach of the New York Giants at the time, and they were trying to make a run at the Super Bowl. And he called us during their BYE week, and they had just lost, I think, to the Bills. And he called up and said, Murph, I read your book, Flawless Execution, and I’m on the debrief chapter, and I really think this could help our team.

James Murphy: We have Eli Manning this year, and Justin Tuck, and I really thought we were going to be contenders for Super Bowl. This is 2012, by the way. Can you fly up and talk to me about this? So I do and he goes, this is incredible Murph. Why don’t you bring your team next week? I’m going to take an hour out of our practice schedule, have everybody come into our auditorium.

James Murphy: I want you to give us a keynote. I want you to really focus on the debrief and we’ll see how it goes. And the big area that he had problems with, was he had a gap defense problem. But he had an offensive problem too and what was happening is you had guys like Eli Manning and Justin Tuck, these pro bowlers, but we had young rookies that were in critical positions and they were scared to death of these guys.

James Murphy: Because in the football world, when it’s time to watch films at the end of the week, you don’t want your name mentioned. You don’t want your name in lights. And when you go up to Eli Manning and he’s your hero your whole life, and now you’re playing with him, it’s hard to say, Eli, the reason I missed that snap count is because you are off cadence.

James Murphy: That’s the last thing you’re going to do, right? So they kept making these errors because of this communication problem because of these stars they had on the team and the rookies.

James Murphy: So we gave the seminar and right when we were done, coach Coughlin said "This is amazing, I’ve never done this before in my football career, but we’re going to cancel the rest of the day of practice, Murph, if your team will stay here and Murph, you work with Eli and the offense, and one of your other guys work with the defense and Justin Tuck and the other guys go down the room with special teams and coaches and teach us how to do this debrief."

James Murphy: So that’s what we did. The very next week, coach Perry Fuel, who’s the defensive coordinator called me at seven o’clock at night, I think it was like Tuesday or Wednesday night.

James Murphy: And he goes, "Murph, we just had our STEALTH debrief," by the way, I think they lost that game. And I go, "Oh, coach, how did it go?" He goes "the team got into a fistfight." I’m like, "what?" And, here I thought, we’re going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated for all the wrong reasons.

James Murphy: And then he paused and he goes " No, Murph, it’s the turning point of our season. It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. Don’t worry about that. We’ll deal with that. But obviously we need your help facilitating the debrief. So can you come and facilitate our debrief from here on out?" Which we did. We had one of our guys, top guy, Boots, he was an F-15 pilot, grew up in that area as a Giants fan.

James Murphy: So he stayed with the team on a weekly basis for the debrief. When they beat the 49ers for the AFC Championship, Boots called me from the locker room with Coach Coughlin, and he invited us and our spouses to go to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl. And if they were fortunate enough to win, they were going to allow us to come up on the podium and hoist the Lombardi Trophy with them.

James Murphy: And in fact, that’s what happened. It was an incredible experience for us. And then we went on to work with a bunch more teams, I think 14 total NFL teams. But, there’s a great example of debriefing and why the truth gets in the way because you had these superstars, you had rookies that were infatuated with them.

James Murphy: You had a coaching culture that was very much in the film room. When your name was called, that meant you screwed up and you screwed up only. And they were going to highlight you based on your how, your act of human error, but never really got to the why.

Oh, that’s an inspiring story that must’ve been exciting for you!

James Murphy: It was great. Sports Illustrated wrote about it. You can read about it if you want, but Coach Coughlin said that was the number one reason they turned their season around working with us and that debrief. And that was one of the main reasons they had that magical year. They almost didn’t even hit 500 there for a while and they turned a season around that wasn’t so pretty and ended up winning the Super Bowl. It was really cool. They had us come a few weeks later to Tiffany’s for the ring ceremony. It was a really neat experience for our team.

Bill Raymond: Wow. That’s incredible.

[00:23:30] Implementing Debriefing in Your Organization

Bill Raymond: I’m sure we have some listeners that are thinking I want to do this. I want to do a debrief. What are some of the steps that they need to take in order to get started?

James Murphy: if debriefing is something you’re interested in, definitely create a culture of safety. And we do need to get to the truth. So make sure that you compel your team and have them understand why you’re going to create this nameless, rankless debrief. Use some of the stories that I just told you about.

James Murphy: The real importance is getting better the next mission. And it’s not only a little bit better, but it’s a lot better. Without the debrief, you can learn through repetition. You can even learn through a basic debrief where you go, what went right? What went wrong? But there are Harvard business studies or many case studies on the effectiveness of a debrief.

James Murphy: But if you have a true facilitated debrief using a framework, like STEALTH, Your improvement can be as high as 70 percent in one iteration, and that’s phenomenal. I don’t know what 70 percent would do to some of your listeners for their individual bonuses, their team’s performance, the EBITDA they’re trying to drive, but, it’s significant.

James Murphy: The other thing that I would encourage is to use a framework like STEALTH. Hey, we’re going to debrief on this day, on this time, and it’s not a meeting, it’s a debrief. The only thing we’re going to focus on is last week’s mission objective and its accomplishment.

James Murphy: So people know, hey, it’s not a general meeting. We’re not going to stuff a bunch of other items into this thing. So that’s the S in STEALTH. T, set the Tone, nameless and rankless. We talked about how you as a leader can do that. E, Execution versus the objectives. Why are we here? This objective and this objective only. A, Analyze the errors and successes. Go back to your plan and look at the results. Analyze the gap between the plan and the results. That’s what we’re debriefing. And we want to ask the question "how did that activity get there?" It’s usually an active human error. We want to go ahead and point it out. It’s obvious.

James Murphy: But do it in a very respectful way. The only reason we’re doing that is so we can get to the next step, which is the "why" and the "why" is not about you, Bill. The "why" is about one of these things: a lack of leadership, a breakdown in organization, teamwork, communication, discipline, experience, and knowledge.

James Murphy: Those are the only areas we’re focusing. And that’s the team, that’s the enterprise level, not the individual level. And then we want to analyze the multiple errors or successes and look for error chains. Is one of those LOTCD acronyms recurring? Oh yeah, leadership recurred here, and here. What part of leadership?

James Murphy: We’re not really holding each other accountable. There’s really no downside if we miss a milestone. Can we agree on what that might look like and what that might be? It might even be a neat little contest. But boy, that’s where the breakdown is. Let’s put a step-by-step protocol in to drive that contest that will actually give us the outcomes, and let’s make that part of our daily standups.

James Murphy: Okay, we’ll incorporate in our daily standups. And now all of a sudden your execution levels shoot up. It could be that simple. So after we analyze the execution, we would come up with a lesson learned.

James Murphy: It’s a step by step protocol to address that recurring root cause. And that’s the L. T is to transfer the lesson learned across the organization, up and down the vertical and H end on the high note. So people are looking forward to your debrief, not dreading it. That’s STEALTH.

Bill Raymond:

Bill Raymond: You know, it’s interesting as you’re imparting your knowledge, I’m thinking about some experiences that I’ve had in the past. And specifically, I’m thinking about this really large project I had.

Bill Raymond: It’s a government project with an entity that you would know the name of along with leaders that you would know the name of, if I told you.

Bill Raymond: The project was failing in many different fronts. We had some problems with resourcing people on the project. We had some budget issues and of course the timeline was getting longer and longer.

Bill Raymond: And as a consultant, I called up the account manager at the time for this project and said, we have a problem, I really need your help. And we need to make a decision on how to move this forward. And his response to me was, well, listen, Bill, I’m waiting for you to make that decision and tell me what I need to do.

Bill Raymond: That’s not something I was used to before, but you know, at the end of the day he was right. If I think about it, my biggest concern was pulling my team together and figuring out what exactly the problem was so that we could have a conversation with these leaders and see what other input they might have.

Bill Raymond: So it was very stressful for myself and the rest of the team. We all had to get dressed up in our best suits. You would take the elevator up to the top level, sit in this room with these people that have these faces, where you can’t read them to save your life.

Bill Raymond: And you have to tell them that, your project is not going well. By the time we were done with the meeting, I thought we’re going to get fired to be quite honest with you. I still couldn’t read their faces. But instead, what they said is we need more of this. And here’s what we did wrong. Here’s some of the things that we can fix right now. Here’s how we want to be involved in the project moving forward.

Bill Raymond: And here’s how we should incorporate this kind of communication moving forward. And are you okay with that? And so we started putting all of that together. Now. I wish I had the STEALTH framework in front of me at that time. But we did something similar and I can tell you that it does work and sometimes you just have to face these things head on.

James Murphy: Yeah. You bring up something that’s real important and that’s the, these were good leaders that were listening, right? So they understood the magic that you were giving them. That doesn’t always happen. So early on as consultants, when we work with that organization, they go, we want to embrace Flawless Execution from top to bottom.

It takes that kind of a candid conversation. And I remember working with some leaders with VMware, we did a ton of work with them when they were going through some big pivots and, Pat Gelsinger, their CEO at the time, now the CEO of Intel, we had that conversation with Pat and he was just great and, not every leader is. But I think it’s important for us to have that conversation if we’re really going to establish this truth over artificial harmony.

Bill Raymond: Well, I think that’s a great way to end the conversation.

[00:29:17] Conclusion and Contact Information

Bill Raymond: James Murphy, Murph, if anyone is listening to this right now and thinks they might want to reach out to you and have a further conversation about Flawless Execution, Debriefs, STEALTH, how might they be able to reach you?

James Murphy: Yeah, you can reach me through Minnect, which is an app. My LinkedIn address is James D as in Delta, James D Murphy or flawless execution on LinkedIn. And I also have a website, jamesdmurphy.com.

Great, I will make sure that all the links you mentioned are in the https://agileinaction.com website for this podcast. If you’re in a podcast app, go down to the show notes, and if you’re on YouTube watching the video, just go down to the description and you’ll find it there. Murph, this was a great conversation. Thank you so much for your time today!

James Murphy: Thank you, sir. And happy hunting to all your listeners out there. Good luck.

[00:30:04] Outro

Speaker: Thank you for listening to the Agile in Action Podcast with Bill Raymond. Subscribe now to stay current on the latest trends in team, organization, and agile techniques. Please take a moment to rate and comment to help us grow our community. This podcast is produced in affiliation with Cambermast LLC, and our executive producer is Reama Dagasan.

Speaker: If there is a topic you would like Bill to cover, contact him directly at Bill.Raymond@agileinaction.com.