As part of my family’s “Tent Routine” we co-deliver a daily morning COVID-19 brief. I chair the meeting to guide its conduct. My wife talks about what is going locally. My eldest is in charge of the physical fitness routine. My youngest tracks the family outreach / check-in plan. We come to a consensus on the tasks for the day, the meal plan, and our “forced fun” evening activity. Some friends and family have listened in so they can start to implement a similar brief with their families.
This daily brief provides a venue to share information about the situation globally and locally, what we as a family are doing to protect ourselves and others, plan our day by working through any coordination issues, detail any chores that need doing and errands we need to run, and assign friends and family members with whom to connect. This is also the opportunity to combat any rumours that are circulating on social media or less trustworthy news sources. We use questions like “what are you hearing on the news? What are your friends saying?” to stimulate the conversation. This is equally as important in the era of social media, cyber scams, and fake news.
The morning brief is the most important activity that we conduct as a family because it underpins our planning and execution of COVID-19 preparations and precautions.
[Awkwardly staged photo of the Gasparotto morning brief]
[Left: Family twice daily temperature log. Right: COVID-19 Symptoms Comparison Chart]
Comprehensive information is best delivered in and standardized format so everyone knows what to expect. The content can and does change. The headings and how the information is communicated follows a pattern. Military personnel will recognize the pattern as it is based on the 5 paragraph orders format (Situation, Mission, Execution, Service Support or Administration & Logistics, Command & Signals). In my work as a leadership development professional, I have civilianized this format and many of the terms for use in the business community.
You will find attached two documents: 1) A Microsoft Word template for you to use (print out or electronically). 2) That same template, in PDF format, filled in with the details that I used for my family’s 18 March, 2020 brief as an illustrative example. Your details will be different to a varying degree based on your local conditions.
Below is a table of the Daily Brief’s format. It is formatted in 2 columns: Title of the Headings and the Rationale. The Rationale column is to help you understand why each Heading is important in the COVID-19 context. Unlike a military brief and to make it more easily digestible for all my family, I ask (or rather I have learned to ask) for questions after each major heading.
As we have been doing this for a week now, not every sub-heading is spoken to in detail. We pick different precautionary measures to highlight in any given day to reduce the length of the meeting and to keep everyone engaged.
DAILY BRIEF – FORMAT
|Situation||Provides the context and the environment in which we operate.|
||A pandemic by definition is global. What is occurring in around the world will impact the local conditions.|
||The Canadian system of governance apportions certain responsibilities to different levels of government. Each level’s capabilities and responses inform the local.|
||The situation and response on the ground has the greatest impact on people’s lives. Access to food, medical care, public transportation, etc.|
||Information gleaned from reputable medical sources (World Health Organisation, Health Canada, Ottawa Public Health, etc.).|
||Weather data informs decisions such as indoor vs outdoor activities, clothing selection, preparing for storms, etc.|
|Goals / Tasks||Who is on the team and what are their goals and tasks.|
||While the full impact of the pandemic is not yet known, people should identify, where possible, what their goals are beyond the immediate. Purpose is one of the greatest things that sustains us during dark times and that comes from having a future orientation.|
||Crisis often creates scarcity (food, masks, toilet paper—WTF?, etc). Planning out several days may lead to preliminary tasks that need to occur today.|
||SMART goals / tasks for the day:
|Timings (Dates and Times)||Calendar events: Appointments, deadlines, milestones, birthdays. Anything routine (i.e. the daily brief) and repeatable can come out in the next heading called Coordinating Instructions.|
|Coordinating Instructions||Amplifying details for how things get done.|
||Daily “tent” routine, weekly physical fitness routine, daily meal routine, etc.|
||Hand washing, use of protective equipment (gloves and masks), coughing and sneezing protocols, etc.|
||Example. If a family member presents with a COVID-19 symptom, the member and the family will follow a prescribed set of actions.|
||Any number of amplifying details may be required for the specific set of situational and environmental circumstances. Think about WHAT you do on any given day that you are dealing with COVID-19 and write down HOW you deal with it. That could be a coordinating instruction.|
|Logistics and Administration||The goods / materials needed to sustain your family and the required paperwork to get things done.|
||Food, water, supplies, medication, sanitation, fuel, utilities, infrastructure, etc.|
||Financial, banking, taxes, registrations, school, etc.|
|Communications||Who you are connected to and how to communicate with them.
For some families you may need to specify the means of communications (calls, texts, e-mail, social media direct messaging, mail, etc.)
||Emergency, Medical, legal, next of kin notification, online groceries, etc.|
||Who is reaching out to connect with friends and family. Flattening the Curve is about “physical” distance. If anything we should increase our connection by communicating more.|
There are two human conditions that are highly contagious: panic and sense of humour. Being properly informed, being part of a reliable team, and having a solid yet flexible plan decreases panic. The Tent Routine and the daily brief contribute greatly to this.
This is all heavy stuff and what I have proposed likely has a serious military feel to it. That’s why I end my briefs asking if anyone has any final comments by asking for “Questions, comments, or rude remarks…” My wife and kids are big fans of MASH and asking for rude remarks has a distinctively Captain Hawkeye Pierce ring to it.
Please use and pass it on.
As humanity has done over the course of our history, we will get through this. We will get through this by sticking together. Wishing you and your families “bon courage.”
About the Author
In 2006, then Major Mark Gasparotto deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan as the Commander of 23 Field Squadron. The Squadron provided combat engineer support to the 1st Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group during Canada’s second rotation in theatre. Upon his return home, Mark and 12 of his former officers and soldiers wrote the book Clearing the Way: Combat Engineers in Kandahar, now an award winning documentary film.
Retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2017 at the rank of Colonel, Mark is now the President of the Gasparotto Group.
The Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.