The S.T.A.R. (Stop, Think, Act, Review) moment is the time-out that stands between your team and a nuclear disaster. During our work with teams in extreme environments doing experiential teamwork skills training, we realized that many teams struggle to get every team member on the same page. Starting the decision-making process to address a crisis with just one ear half-way open to the rest of the team is a great way to kill everyone. Unfortunately, as humans we’re naturally anxious and we tend to believe we should be able to multitask–especially in a crisis–which research shows is impossible.
Effective Teams Use a STAR Moment
When things are on fire, the best performing teams call for a pause and force everyone to stop multitasking. This allows everyone space to use both ears and their entire brains to engage in a more efficient group decision-making process. As a high-performing team, we at Minerva do this by literally saying, “Wait, STAR moment.” This causes everyone in the room to immediately realize that one of us has recognized a critical threat or opportunity. As a team, we then know that the next few minutes will be spent on these steps:
- Stop. We face each other and stop responding to any stimuli outside of our other team members (i.e. phones go unanswered). First, how much time do we have to think about this? Is it a safety issue? A cost issue? Do we need to do something to buy ourselves time to think before acting? We set a deadline for our pause. By default, we go for five minutes immediately.
- Think. The person calling for the STAR moment states the concern. In particular, why is it a concern? What do we think is the biggest potential impact to our team, mission, system, goal? The person calling the STAR is also tasked with making a recommendation. The rest of the team is responsible for vetting that recommendation.
- Plan to Act. Once we all consent to a workable recommendation, we talk about who will implement what and when. We assign responsibilities, if not tasks, to specific team members and set deadlines.
- Review. Finally, we talk about how we will know that our plan is working. We set up metrics and check-points. Sometimes this is as simple as saying we will see if anyone is pulling there hair out tomorrow morning. We don’t go back to work until everyone understands how we’ll handle the threat or opportunity as a team.
Productive Teams are Easier to Lead
STAR moments create feelings of competence among individual team members and increase team members’ confidence leadership. STAR moments prompt knowledge sharing and promote a climate of psychological safety, where team members are not afraid to give leaders the actionable information necessary to fix or avoid errors. There is a bit of the chicken and the egg scenario going on here; strong teams use STAR moments, STAR moments make teams even stronger. The first step is to start leveraging STAR moments as a team. If you can’t figure out how to apply it in your work context right away, then even using STAR moments in team building events and simulations helps your team learn the mechanics of effective teamwork together enough to become a stronger team.