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Hot wash preparation

March 12, 2008

The hot wash has three main parts: preparation, the meeting and follow up. I’ll discuss each of these topics over three posts, beginning today with the preparation.

Like any meeting, a successful hot wash is achieved through the actions that occur before and after the actual event. The goal of the hot wash is not to have a hot wash, but to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your training effort. The hot wash is only the vehicle and the value returned is proportional to the effort invested. Preparation focuses the energies of the participants towards the objectives and reduces the effort wasted on the process.


The preparation phase will begin around 24 – 48 hours before the actual hot wash session is run. The hot wash will need to be run as soon as possible afterward so the participants will have the training ‘fresh’ in their minds (we had a published instruction that said we would complete a post-training hot wash within three working days of completing training to allow for sufficient preparation and not delay it unnecessarily).

There are four steps to preparing the hot wash:

  • Complete the training
  • Plan and promote the agenda
  • Schedule and invite
  • Set up the meeting area

Complete the training: This should go without saying. We are not here to assess promises and If it isn’t complete, it is not assessed, and subsequently therefore not subject to improvement (I guess a recommendation could be made to complete it next time). This includes post administration activities such as submitting reports and updating personnel files. You can start the preparation before this and kick off the 24 – 48 hour lead time, providing that you are absolutely sure that everything will be completed before you sit down to the meeting.

In some cases, you will not complete all components due to a suspension or cessation of training. In this case it is Ok to bend the rule, to the point that we complete up to where the training program stopped. Do we still run a hot wash? Absolutely – we may learn something that will avoid this in the future.

Plan and promote the agenda: The agenda is essentially a list of topics that will be covered during the meeting, prefixed with a three to four minute introduction and a five minute review at the end. Before publishing it, go over all of the student comments and trainer recommendations and include them as part of the agenda (no point in wasting time on bringing them up again). Publish it with sufficient time for all participants to review and formulate some suggestions and criticisms.

Schedule and formally invite participants: Don’t accept non-attendance lightly and reschedule if necessary, especially if either the trainer or student is unavailable. If you can afford the resources, also include a facilitator and scribe. The scribe can be another student or person not involved with the training but the facilitator should be someone respected in the organisation.

Set up the area before the meeting: Ensure sufficient seating, some form of note taking area visible to all participants (whiteboard, large notepad) and stationary (markers, paper) are available. This is to avoid wasting precious meeting time or killing the energy of the meeting before we begin.

Preparation is insurance against false expectations and misconceptions. It also ensures the less time is wasted during the meeting to complete tasks that could be completed beforehand. Whilst failing to this for any meeting degrades the effectiveness of the gathering, it is disastrous for the hot wash because of the affect it has on the audience’s enthusiasm.

Next: The hot wash in action

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