Give Timely Feedback

What feedback do you have for your team about the work you have asked them to do?

We say we want to be nimble. A system that is nimble has rapid, quality feedback. The sooner you give feedback, the less time your team will waste pursuing the wrong answer.

The further the feedback is from the event, the more time it takes to fix it. Think of it like this. I am sure that a long time ago you wrote some code. What if I told you there was a bug in it I wanted you to fix? It would be very difficult for you to find and fix. That is an extreme example. Suppose it was only a year ago. Certainly you know of projects that lasted more than a year. Even after a year, it can be a real challenge to find and fix errors you created.

Now suppose it was yesterday. It would be fresh in your mind. It would be easy to find and fix. So you can see that the further the feedback is from the event, the more time it takes to fix it. Timely feedback makes your team more efficient by eliminating time wasted in pursuing the wrong approach as well as reducing the time spent finding and fixing errors.

By not providing timely feedback, we create a system that wastes effort and causes unnecessary delays.

Even more than that, distance in time changes the way the creator perceives the feedback. If you tell me right away that what I have done is not what you want, the feedback is about the product. I can correct it and we will both be happy.

If you wait, and I go on and do other work, perhaps a lot of other work, work that is based on that wrong start, I have wasted my time. Any good feelings I had about myself based on my progress are dashed. Suddenly the feedback is about me and not the product. I have done bad work. I am not good at this. I am stupid.

People do not want to feel stupid and for the most part they are not. The reason they feel that way is that we create a system that makes them feel that way. People so strongly do not want to feel stupid that they stop contributing rather than risking contributing something that will make them feel stupid.

Some of us think in terms of reward and punishment. What if we punish people for not contributing? Even if they are punished for not contributing, the punishment is likely better than feeling stupid. It allows them to take the moral high ground and say, “I know I am right, you just do not care and you are lashing out at me to compensate for your own shortcomings. If you cared, you would have been paying attention.” Do you see how even undesirable behavior is rewarded?

By not providing timely feedback, we create a system that encourages people to not contribute.

I know you care. Show you care. Provide timely, quality feedback. Praise the product if it is praiseworthy. Suggest changes to the product if you want something different. Make it about the product and not the person. Help us be nimble and efficient. Create a system that encourages people to contribute.

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