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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Instant Feedback Culture

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There is said a lot about feedback. We continuously learn how important it is and how to deliver it in constructive way. Yet still, for many of us, me included, delivering feedback is difficult.

I already hear you nodding your heads and saying “yes, especially critical feedback is a hard part.”

Well, no. Not at all.

I mean when it comes to critical feedback we happen to fail to do it constructively, but at least we do it. Positive (supportive or however you want to call it) is a different animal though. It’s easier to do it constructively. The problem is every now and then we forget to do it at all.

But I have a solution. Yay!

It is totally simple. That’s a good part. Unfortunately there’s also bad news for you. Prerequisites are difficult to achieve.

OK, the method. I call it instant feedback culture. Why culture? Well, it is the part of organizational culture. The rest is pretty self-explanatory – you deliver feedback instantly. Has someone just said or done something you want to comment on in either a positive or a negative way? Use the Nike way: just do it. Do it instantly or almost instantly. Why “almost?” Um, not all the feedback you want to deliver publicly and the situation or behavior you have feedback on might have happened in a big group.

You don’t keep it for later, for dreadful performance appraisal or something. You don’t wait until you forget it, which is by far the most common thing to happen. In some way you just get it out of the chest.

Simple enough, isn’t it?

Now the hard part. Prerequisites.

First, trust. Unless you all trust each other it won’t happen. OK, it may happen partially, between people who trust each other, even if you can’t say that virtually everyone trusts anyone else. However, bear in mind that it’s like with number communication paths: between two people, there is one, between three there are there, with four people you have 6, etc. It doesn’t scale up linearly but exponentially. And the more people you get on trust side the more value they get out of instant feedback culture.

Second, openness. It works both ways: one has to be ready to honestly share what they think and on the other side they need to accept an incoming message. I don’t have to to agree uncritically with it, let alone doing something about it, but I should accept and appreciate someone cared enough to share it.

Doesn’t look difficult? Believe me, it is. Actually if you asked me what is a single biggest challenge in leading teams I will point building trust as it is totally intangible, yet crucial to get this entity called “a team” working.

Anyway, considering you’re doing great and these prerequisites aren’t an issue for you, introducing instant feedback culture should be a piece of cake. Just remember to share every little bit of feedback instantly. Don’t wait until it fades away to oblivion. Don’t wait till there is an occasion because by this time it can be totally irrelevant or meaningless. Start sharing your feedback instantly and do it consistently.

Others will follow. After all we like to receive feedback, especially a pleasant part of it. This way we get relevant feedback and get it quickly so it actually is easy to do something about the thing which is under discussion. Either do more of it (if a feedback is supportive) or change it (it it’s not).

Soon you will see feedback flying all around in different directions and people, armed with new knowledge, will be improving much faster.

So go, try introducing instant feedback culture. Considering that your team is ready for it, that is.

in: communication, team management

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