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Submitted by ShipShape on


How do you all handle negativity in the Hot Wash? For example, a participant "throws another individual under the bus" in a way that is not constructive, hurtful, meant to displace blame, or for whatever reason.  

I've observed this both during the Hot Wash, as well as afterwards by sharing additional input to the facilitator when the Hot Wash is over (and the facilitator is finalizing the outcome). Looking for perspectives on both.



Kevin1's picture

this may not work for you, but this is how I would approach it.  

Up front, set appropriate expectations from the Hot Wash.  What elements of the PROCESS did not work or could have been done better?  This is not about individuals, it is about the process.

Give an example of how this would look. 

Instead of 'Gary didn't do task X on time', try 'Task X was overdue and impacted the overall schedule.  Possible reasons could have been due to poor estimating, inexperience, overloaded with other tasks or the wrong resource, tasks were too long with not enough progress checkpoints, critical path was not clearly identified allowing prioritisation of effort'

As an exercise, have the participants brainstorm a second example.  Instead of 'Gary did a terrible job on task Y' what alternatives can be are looking for things like...'Task Y was not delivered with expected level of quality.  Possible reasons could have been poor specifications, poor quality inputs, skimping on time to save money, lack of inspection points'

Then write it up as a ground rule and have everyone agree to it.

Then you can refer back to the ground rule whenever someone gets off track / out of line.

Kind regards



ShipShape's picture
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Thanks Kev!

I don't believe the Hot Wash shownotes mentioned setting up ground rules to "focus on the process and not the individuals" or to encourage constructive input vs. negative input, but I like really like the idea...particularly since negativity has been a trend for one manager in particular.  It's certainly possible to acknowledge what we need to "Take A Look At" without calling out individuals.

Additional background: I've educated a wonderful direct on Hot Wash facilitation. He recently facilitated his first Hot Wash for an effort where I was the Project Manager. We both found it to be quite awkward when a manager (a peer of mine and a resource on my project), contacted my direct post-Hot Wash to have him add specific comments to the Hot Wash outcome documentation. The comments had a negative tone regarding my role/performance/qualifications as well of those of my manager. He also pointed a lot of fingers and took a lot of credit for the project success, which was a team effort. That feedback wasn't shared during the either the effort or in Hot Wash. It likely would have been awkward if shared during the Hot Wash as well. This was a lesson learned where I expect we will add new ground rules to future Hot Wash sessions. My direct and I reworded most of his new comments (or omitted them) in order to keep the Hot Wash outcome constructive.

To adress the current situation, I'm planning to speak to that peer manager (with whom I've had many communication challenges in the past) and provide the following "project manager feedback":..

"When you contact my direct, whom I'm coaching on the Hot Wash facilitation process, with comments that aren't constructive, it doesn't help us improve the effort. Thought you would want to know."

This peer manager tends to get very defensive, so I'm not certain this feedback will be well received. I expect he will disagree that the comments were not constructive and that he has a right to express his opinion.

Ugh, please help! I welcome comments on any or all of the above...especially the peer feedback situation. Thanks!




stenya's picture
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Ship, "not constructive" is subjective - better to focus on a specific comment or phrase that was a personal attack or objectively false. I think it'd be more helpful to tell your peer that comments are welcome *during* the Hot Wash meeting - i.e. if you want your comments included, bring them to the meeting and let the group hear them, and be respectful. And jeez, if this is a peer of yours, they should come to you with concerns about your performance, not your direct!

That said, I'd also take a breath and really consider the peer's feedback - does he have any valid points for you to take to heart? Though poorly delivered, there coukd be something of value there.

ShipShape's picture
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All excellent points. Thank you, Stenya!