Do we use feedback to improve what we do?
For five years I have been monitoring the feedback and testimonials from BERTEIG’s training events, from CSM, to Kanban, to SAFe classes and everything else. Our feedback “forms” and questions have evolved over the five years, starting with paper forms then becoming electronic; and from being required to being optional.
BERTEIG’s policy is to use testimonials/feedback in two ways: 1) to learn from each class and consistently improve the quality of our training and customer service, and 2) to use testimonials to communicate our strengths.
In the first case, our trainers have become aware of their capacities and skill-sets, both strong and weak, and have endeavoured to constantly upgrade their presence in the “classroom.” They consistently work on soft-skills that help others learn, and on upgrading their knowledge. As well, those offering “customer service” learn what is required both before and after training is offered.
For the sake of specificity and transparency, here are some examples of feedback that has spurred our trainers and company to make changes (all names withheld):
Problem: Maybe I didn’t read the write-up properly but I was expecting _____ to lead the bulk of the course. _____ was great, covered the material adequately, etc but ______ was the person recommended to me. He clearly has superior anecdotes and real-life experience and if I sign up for a course with him, I don\t expect to be taught by someone else for the bulk of the material.
Solution: Emails to registrants now include the names of all trainers who will be facilitating a class. i.e. “The class will be led by _____. Everything you will need for your learning is provided at the seminar. The class will also be led by _____, who is in the final stages of becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer, supervised by _____.”
Problem: I had the impression that we didn’t catch the trainer on his best day. He seemed nervous and uncertain at times. I’d offer the advice that he should be cautious of his body language and focus when talking.
Solution: The trainer is becoming more aware of the need to improve his delivery and clearly focus on the students.
Problem: I like the course but I think should consider that some people we are completely new and don’t assume we already have knowledge.
Solution: All registrants are clearly encouraged to do the recommended reading prior to class.
In the second instance of feedback use, our event training site has a plethora of solid testimonials and high praise for our various courses. I do not know to what extent people, looking for training, read these. However, I do know that BERTEIG has gained a reputation in the community for having a culture of learning and excellent training, and most often people attend our classes through ‘word-of-mouth.’
Still, I pose the question: how valuable is this feedback?
Jerry Doucett, Senior Consultant and Trainer at BERTEIG, has expressed it this way:
“To me, feedback is the critical part of the PDCA cycle for an instructor. If there is no feedback then an instructor shouldn’t really be confident they are adjusting their approach or materials to improve. They may try to guess what to improve, but without feedback they won’t know for sure.
Tying it specifically to Scrum, feedback may be seen as the fuel for empirical process design, and it enables the Scrum pillars (Transparency, Inspection, Adaptation) to support and sustain the Scrum Values.”
Not everyone agrees that feedback is useful. Take this article from Forbes Magazine regarding employee evaluations:
I agree with you that making every employee fill out an evaluation form and sit down to talk about it every year is a huge waste of time and energy, and most employees hate performance reviews.
If the relationship is healthy between the manager and the employee, they’re having regular conversations anyway —including quarterly and annual planning sessions. If that isn’t happening, I can help managers fix that — but having more conversations doesn’t require an evaluation process.
I eliminated performance reviews at my last company and everyone was happy about it.
Of course, employees need to be able to get feedback when they need it. If they can get that feedback without being graded like elementary school students then it’s a win-win for everybody.
In an interesting article on LinkedIn, the authors explore the top 20 reasons managers (for example) don’t want to give feedback:
Another view of feedback’s importance comes from David Anderson, founder of Lean Kanban University:
“STATIK Step 2: Understand sources of dissatisfaction with the current system.
This is done in two steps: ask the customers what they are unhappy about; ask the service delivery organization if they have any internal sources of dissatisfaction – things which are preventing them from doing a good and professional job and delivering on expectations. Often the sources of unhappiness on each side, external and internal, can be matched – fix one and you fix the other. For example, a customer might complain of unpredictable, late delivery, while internally, workers may complain of being interrupted and disrupted with unplanned or additional requests taking a higher class of service. If we can address the sources of unplanned, disruptive demand, we can eliminate the interruptions and the service delivery becomes more predictable. Fixing one problem can make both sides happier – the workers are not interrupted and can focus on doing a good professional job, and the customer receives delivery within a reasonable tolerance of their original expectation.
Sources of dissatisfaction provide input for the kanban system design. We will try to design the kanban system, its capacity allocations and its classes of service to eliminate as many of the problems as possible.”
How do we handle feedback that is critical? It’s too easy to become defensive. Here’s a tip from the Harvard Business Review:
Receiving feedback well doesn’t mean you have to take the feedback. Being good at receiving feedback means just that: that you receive it. That you hear it. That you work to understand it. That you share your perspective on it. That you reflect on it. That you sit with it. That you look for that (even tiny) bit that might be right and of value. Then you get to decide whether or not to act on it.
Whatever you decide, circle back to your feedback giver to share your thinking. If you don’t, they will think you didn’t hear them, or didn’t care. Letting them know you took their input seriously will strengthen the relationship even if you ultimately go in a different direction.
I believe it’s safe to say that feedback from customers and stakeholders in all realms is a necessary step toward creating a culture of learning and improvement.
For people who have attended BERTEIG training, how would you like to engage in the continuous improvement process beyond the feedback you’ve given in a class? Contact me with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org