Falling out of love with Feedback
Team practices such as giving feedback, can be lightweight if done regularly and painful if done infrequently.
Even the most disciplined of teams can find their way out of good habits whether through workload, holidays, change in dynamics, avoiding pain or even complacency “we don’t need to do X, we are a high functioning team”. At some point you will need to re-boot the practice.
This was the situation our team found ourselves in regarding giving each other feedback.
Typically we would have approached this by requesting feedback over email and then collating the responses and potential face to face follow ups. This is a lengthy process that would have taken well over a week and involved chasing people to finish.
Rekindling the feedback affair
Instead of the traditional approach above, we attempted a round robin process in a single session similar to speed dating, which we will call Speed Feedback.
In preparation, everyone was asked to watch this great presentation by Erika Carson and obey good feedback processes (which I won’t go into in this post). I found it useful to limit the feedback to around three items per person in advance.
We are a team of seven, so we broke up into three pairs and a timekeeper. Each pair found a private area and took turns in giving and receiving feedback for ten minutes, with equal speaking & listening time per person.
After each session the pairs would rotate so that everyone had an opportunity to see all others in the team.
The whole process for seven people took around an hour and fifteen minutes.
The Morning After
So personally I got a lot out of it, I received some very valuable feedback and had some time to ask questions face to face.
Others found the face to face nature quite confrontational, although not a show stopper.
Due to the one size fits all, there will be mixed value. People newer to the team have less feedback to give and 10 minutes will be too much time. People who have been working together for longer and have more to say will struggle to get everything off their chest so will feel rushed and incomplete.
As a team exercise I think it was invaluable as it kick started our feedback process again and allowed us to get over the initial hurdles of communicating with each other.
Lessons in Love
- This was a useful tool to reboot a pre-existing feedback process but not necessarily for an ongoing feedback process
- Preparation is essential. Both in understanding the process and the feedback to be given
- Limit feedback to around 3 items
- Follow up as necessary offline for longer feedback chats