Too often farm employees don’t understand the big picture, your desired results, and what role they play. This leads to inefficiency, errors, poor communication and stress. The U.S. Air Force has many of the same challenges as your farm when planning a mission that is complex with many uncertainties and variables. They have created a simple process they call a briefing, which they use before every mission. Farms can copy the Air Force template to tame the chaos that often derails a planting or harvest season. Let’s jump in and look at how a good farm briefing is planned and presented.
In order to create a good flow around your briefing use the following template.
Results and Goals: Lay out in detail what the end result will look like. What are you trying to achieve and what does success look like? For example, how many acres need to be planted in what window of time? Do you have a goal of fewer equipment failures and downtime? What is the goal for the number of days it will take to plant?
Roadmap: Where is the farm team in the process now and where does it need to be at the end of the goal? What steps does the farm crew need to take to get ready and then execute the plan? Go through all the steps and milestones along the way. For example, when does the planter need to be ready and what needs to happen next. What fields will be planted first?
Resources: What resources of time, money, people and equipment are needed to complete the project? This part of the brief is about the support functions that keep the mission moving forward. For example, how many employees will be allotted to planting, fertilizer, etc? How will the seed, chemical and fuel get to each field to keep the planter moving? How much time will it take what equipment is allocated to each area of the process? Is there any new equipment this year or a different process of tending the planter?
Roles: What role will everyone play and what are their responsibilities? This is the most important part of the briefing and it contains as much detail as possible. This answers three questions.
- Who is in charge of each task.
- Who do they answer to?
- How should they communicate if they have questions?
Barriers and Danger: What does the farm team need to be aware of that will derail progress toward the goal? What errors were made in the past that you shouldn’t be repeated? This is a time to learn from past mistakes and bring those to everyone’s attention. This is also a time address contingency plan in case of equipment failure, weather, etc.
Clarification: Before you adjourn the meeting ask if there are any questions. No one should leave the meeting not understanding the plan or his or her role in it.
Your farm has fewer moving parts than a military operation and yet there are simple lessons we can apply to our farms. Communicating your goal and your plan of action to your employees is not only appreciated by them, but it also decreases uncertainty about what needs to be done, how it will be done and by whom.
What could you accomplish with fewer cell phone calls from confused employees, fewer errors, and less stress?
Could your farm crew benefit from a briefing before you plant the first seeds this spring?
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.
Tim Schaefer founded Encore Consultants to provide specialized advising and coaching to farm families and agribusiness at the crossroads of change. With over 20 years of experience advising farmers, Tim was an early pioneer of peer advisory groups for agriculture as a way for successful farmers to gain knowledge, ideas and skills from each other in a non-competitive environment. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.