How to ask for feedback without creating chaos

Paweł Ledwoń
Nov 23, 2017 · 5 min read

Avoid broadcasting chaos

Broadcasting is a way to distribute information from one to many members of a group. If you want to share something important with your team, you can send them an e-mail, write a post on your internal blog or drop a note on Slack. It’s a simple, but very powerful tool.

1) Too many people involved

You don’t need a big company to start a large discussion. I’ve been part of unproductive conversations with fewer than 10 participants.

2) Using the wrong medium to communicate

Companies, especially in the tech sector, use plenty of communication channels. Meetings, presentations, e-mails, Slack, the list is long. Choosing the right medium for discussion can be tricky.

Beware of quiet misalignment

Some discussions dodge the chaos, but they might still cause problems. For many reasons, your teammates might not object to your proposal even if it’s wrong. Maybe they (still) trust you, maybe they are afraid to speak up.

How to control the feedback flow

There is a way to verify proposals in a gradual way, reducing the confusion in your team. This process has three pillars:

  1. start with highly credible people
  2. remember diversity

1) Start small

To avoid complex communication patterns, the initial feedback group should have few members. In my experience, a good number is between 3 and 5 people. Usually, discussions in such groups are productive. In case people go off track, it’s still possible to moderate the conversation.

2) The importance of credibility

Even in small groups, if you pick random people, you will probably not get good feedback. You need a group you can believe to raise useful suggestions.

  1. honesty

3) Diverse thinking

Minimising the time to agree has a bad side-effect of creating echo chambers. Decisions driven by short term efficiency might turn into huge liabilities in the long term. Taking many perspectives in the decision-making process helps break down silos and make more informed decisions.

Summary

We use the guidelines outlined above in our company to improve the process of proposing changes to our systems. By discussing ideas with smaller groups first, we can smooth out the rough edges of proposals before exposing them to larger audiences. Reducing the amount of noise helps us make better decisions and maintain morale not only in teams, but also across the whole company.

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A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

Paweł Ledwoń

Written by

CTO @Pusher. I write about technical leadership and software engineering.

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org