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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Feedback should be FACT driven

As the impetus for increased levels of communication is felt by organizations, the need for being able to address project failures leading to schedule slips, quality compromises, cost overruns, and scope creeps become the sine qua non for effective project managers! Is this communication effectiveness is only limited to project management? Absolutely not! Agile approaches to product development and project management also constantly seek people to communicate. Even the recent state of agile claims increased transparency has not resulted in increased software quality and some contributions come from being able to communicate.

It is true that one needs to engage in several types of communication but communication is a one-way street if there is no engagement from the audience! During corporate training as well as in classroom facilitation, I find that the lack of engagement from the audience makes it difficult for the facilitator or speaker to create a dialog around concepts. Therefore, the collaboration between two or more people is inexorably critical for communication to be effective. And, there lies the challenge in continuous engagement because people have to be open for feedback.

Recently, I heard in one training that one group (say Group A) was following agile and releasing features for the internal teams. But, many of the internal teams asked for features that this Group A claimed are already there. When asked for better communication of these updates from Group A, the response was reading the release plan documents or see the dashboard. In a world of high-tech dashboards, the need for communicating updates in the language that others understand is equally important! Otherwise, communication has failed. High-Tech is not a substitute for High-Touch and people should be open for feedback.

So, I present the FACT driven feedback as a quick check-and-balance. I am not just referring to numbers and stories in the FACT approach. Instead, I am suggesting that feedback be frequent, accurate, constructive, and timely.

  1. Frequent feedback means both parties are able to get incremental updates faster. The context of the challenge is fresh in people's memory to make corrective actions.
  2. Accurate feedback relies on evidence-based data rather than opinions. This element avoids the halo effect from colored thoughts but shifts the focus on the truth. 
  3. Constructive feedback is focusing on the actionable outcomes that the listener can implement as either proactive risk mitigation steps or corrective actions to exacerbate the problems.
  4. Timely feedback centers around the ability of the person providing the feedback to feel the sense of urgency to elevate the feedback faster than relying on status or standup meetings.

When these four elements of feedback can be learned by both parties in a dialog, then, active listening is at its best. This is when collaboration happens for communication to be efficient and efficient.