I'm very sure we're all familiar with the concept of feedback.
It can be incredibly valuable if used properly and there are several healthy practices that can make sharing feedback productive.
There's only one snag though, we are by definition, looking backwards to behaviour that has already taken place and can't be changed.
Feedback is useful though particularly when we are looking for things like root causes in processes and how to avoid them happening, as well as what has worked well and should be preserved.
But, as we can't change the past - and very often it's not a healthy thing to dwell on anyway - how about we focus the lens on the future?
How about we gather some input on how to improve our performance now?
A feedforward exercise can be quick and easy to arrange and start producing changes pretty quickly. And it doesn't risk digging up past behaviours.
Just as there are some healthy practices for feedback, here are some for feedforward.
1) Think of something you want to improve.
This can be anything. Something personal to you, or something that impacts a team that you're interacting with: communication, meetings, setting goals, measuring KPIs etc.
2) Enrol participants.
If you run a team, I would recommend at least three people to engage with you. Of course you can also do this on a one-to-one basis with someone you trust inside or outside of work depending on your circumstances and what you wish to improve.
3) Set the rules.
Explain to your conversation partners that you want some input on how to improve your particular area.
You invite their ideas
You guarantee to listen intently to their ideas
Their ideas must NOT contain anything about the past
You don't necessarily commit to implementing their idea(s)
You promise not to critique their ideas...(few things are worse than giving an idea and having it instantly shot down or discounted!)
You will only say thank you at the end of the conversation
Ask if you can check in with them every couple of weeks to see if they observe an improvement. This last point is optional but highly recommended, especially when what you're trying to improve has an impact on others).
Important note on number 8 just above: the importance of checking in.
If you are trying to change something that has an impact on the team, then checking in with your "idea partners" to see if they observe a change is highly recommended. For the following reason:
Let's say that you wished to improve the way you communicate in meetings because there have been misunderstandings in the past. So, you ask for some ideas and thank your colleagues for their input.
Suppose you implement some of the ideas you received and proceeded with a new approach for several weeks. Then, a misunderstanding occurs. If you had not formally checked in regularly with those that gave you the advice, it can easily appear that you didn't change anything!! Meaning that your improvements were taking shape but they weren't formally recognised.
However, on the flip side, if you had checked in regularly along the way to see if changes had been observed, and the same misunderstanding occured, you'd likely be forgiven, because they would have formally recognised the improvements before the misunderstanding occured.
Feedback can be useful but often risks dragging up the past which can be demoralising and counterproductive. Feedforward can renew and refresh someone's approach and help them get improvements today.
A feedforward exercise can be especially effective in a group setting too. If you'd like to know more about how to make this both fun and productive in your next team meeting, do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My best wishes and keep scaling.
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