The SBAR Communication Framework: How it Can Save Time & Increase Productivity

by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

Picture this: You’re a superhero with the power to make everyone’s day just a little bit better. Your mission is to save the world from wasted time and pointless meetings. You swoop in and use your superpower of clear and concise communication to save the day!

When you do this, you’re not just a communication hero. You’re also a master of recognition, respecting people’s time and valuing their productivity. Just like a superhero, you have the ability to recognize the importance of time and impact lives.

Does the idea of communication being a time saver seem about as likely as a billionaire working evenings and weekends, squirrelled away in his lair, just waiting for the opportunity to thrash it out with the “baddies” of society? (Because you and I both know he’d be on a yacht populating his Instagram account in real life.)

Unlikely or not, wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t just fiction?


Superhuman Communication Skills

Let me introduce you to SBAR, the most straightforward communication tool I know. It’s a handy little acronym that stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation.

The U.S. Navy initially developed SBAR as a way for submariners to communicate critical information in a concise and structured way and then adopted by healthcare as a patient safety tool. That’s where my love affair with SBAR started.

I was first introduced to SBAR almost 20 years ago working in healthcare as a tool to help improve communication between healthcare professionals (such as at shift handoff or when calling in a specialist to the bedside about a critical patient issue). I gotta tell you, for me, it was love at first sight (speak?). I could see how this juicy little framework was the most delicious opportunity to improve corporate messaging – from one-on-one communication to email announcements to town halls!


I’m getting ahead of myself. First, what does SBAR stand for:

  • image SBAR meaning Situation Background Assessment RecommendationSituation: This is a brief description of the current situation or issue at hand.
  • Background: This includes relevant background information that may help understand the situation.
  • Assessment: This is an analysis of the situation and any potential risks or concerns.
  • Recommendation: This is where you suggest a course of action or solution to address the situation.

The idea is that when everyone expects information to be delivered and received in the same format, it becomes a fast, easy and accurate way to share even complicated information quickly. See what I mean by communication superpower?!


SBAR 2.0

Be the hero across communication mediums! Here are places SBAR can save the day:

Powerful Presentations

Use SBAR to structure your next powerful presentation. Ensure you cover all the essential points: Start with the situation, provide background information, give your assessment, and end with a recommendation. Presentations can be the kryptonite for some of us; fear not because you can communicate your ideas with laser-like precision for action-oriented impact.

Engaging Emails

At one time, we thought emails would be our saviour. Remember that (oh, how naive we were!) If you want to save the world from the evil villain of confusing and lengthy emails (at least for your email recipients), try using SBAR to help you get your point across more clearly and succinctly. Start with the situation, provide background information, give your assessment, and end with a recommendation or a call to action.

Relevant Reports

Using SBAR is like having a trusty sidekick by your side, ready to break down those dense reports into easy-to-understand sections. Why must reports be challenging to read and an evil time waster in your busy day? Using SBAR can make them more accessible and easier to understand. Start with a summary of the situation, provide background information, give your assessment, and end with a set of recommendations or next steps. Don’t make people search for the point in your reports; shine that bat signal in the sky with the juiciest points outlined with razor-sharp precision.

Terrific Team Meetingsimage of an office team in a meeting

Meetings are the time villains of the workplace, sucking the life and productivity out of everyone if we’re not careful. SBAR can be a helpful tool to structure team meetings and ensure that everyone is on the same page and stays that way. Start with the situation, provide background information, give your assessment, and end with a recommendation or a call to action. Want bonus marks for advanced superpower meeting skills? Use SBAR as a debriefing tool to reflect on the effectiveness of the meeting before you take part in your next work mission!

Collaborative Challenging Conversations

Would you love to have the superpower of resolving conflicts with grace, assertiveness and ease? Sometimes it can be hard to bring up a tricky issue with someone, but using SBAR can help you stay focused and get your message across without being confrontational. Start with the situation, provide background information, give your assessment, and end with a recommendation or a request for input.

Remember, you’re not just a superhero at work! Why not try leveraging SBAR the next time you discuss a problem and seek a solution with a friend or family member? Start with the situation, provide background information, give your assessment, and end with a recommendation or a call to action. Then, co-create a powerful next step to resolve the challenge.


The Last Word:

Are you ready to unleash your communication superpowers? Using the SBAR formula is like having a secret weapon to communicate more effectively, save time, and avoid misunderstandings. Whether you’re in a high-stakes meeting or need to address a tricky issue, SBAR has your back! Just follow these simple steps:

  • image of a man on top of a mountain with a briefcase wearing a superhero capeSituation: Identify the main issue you need to address
  • Background: Provide context and relevant information
  • Assessment: Analyze the situation and make a clear assessment
  • Recommendation: End with a powerful call to action or recommendation that will save the day!

So go ahead, put on your communication cape, and give SBAR a try. Your team will thank you for it!


Here are some other productivity tips to get you on track:

PS – Want more? Check out how I dive into this and other simple helpful frameworks in Communication for Clarity and Confidence.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve