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  • Writer's pictureDarin McCloy

Hot-Wash Time. Lessons Learned from COVID19 Are Best When They Are Fresh.

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

How well has your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) measured up to the COVID19 Pandemic?

It’s not too early for a Hot-Wash.

It was a rough start when everyone suddenly shifted to Working From Home (WFH). Have you documented specifically what was so disruptive about it?

A week or two into Sheltering in Place or Self Quarantining there were a lot of details, needs, and shortages you WISH you had anticipated. Have you written them down? What about all those great ideas for how you would do things better next time?

Every day you delay, the likelihood you will forget some valuable lessons increases.

The term “Hot-Wash” migrated from US military jargon to the project management practice and beyond starting in the 1990’s it would appear. As a young Marine Corps Lieutenant in an aviation unit I first heard and used the term around that time. I always assumed it came from the practice of washing down aircraft while the engines were hot, or even still running, immediately after a flight or mission. No, I am not in the accompanying photo. That's a more daring and dashing Lieutenant McCloy of a previous generation on the right.

I recall how one Colonel ran Hot-Wash briefings. Anyone contributing lessons learned could only speak while their hand was submerged in a bucket of ice placed front and center of the briefing area. Remove your hand from the bucket? Stop talking and take a seat. This encouraged brevity and inclusiveness while discouraging pontificating and "Bogart'ing" of the conversation by any one contributor. The objective of the Hot-Wash was then, and should be now, to gather input from all angles and ALL observers. Document the topics while they are fresh, or hot. Leave for later, after all the equipment is cleaned and stored away back at home base, the prioritizing, differences of opinion, proof reading, organizing and decisions about what to do about the lessons.

After any real-world incident, test, simulation, or table-top exercise that causes you to enact any portion of your BCP you should collect the lessons you learned so that you can improve your potential for a more effective response in the future. Every guide to developing a Business Continuity Plan, Disaster Recovery Plan or Incident Response Plan includes lessons learned as a crucial element, essential to improving the plan and therefor minimizing impact to the company due to future incidents.


Some "Hot-Wash" guiding questions:

What did we do well?

What could we have done better?

What did we do that we should stop doing?

What did we not do that we should do in the future?

What training should we provide our employees and partners?

What additional tools and resources should we consider?

Just like a tabletop exercise and lessons learned, TAKE NOTES NOW

Can we help you with your Business Continuity, Incident Response, or Disaster Recovery planning requirements? Contact us at or visit us at

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