The importance of feedback for management and improvement

I don’t know how many of you have seen the film The Truman Show? But we’ve all wished we could live in a perfect world sometimes, where every traffic light is green and every decision goes your way. Working without effective feedback can sometimes seem like that – you complete a task or project, send it on its way into the business and move on to the next one. You presume that it went well, or was accepted, because you worked hard on it – so why wouldn’t it have been? Therefore you continue to work in the same way, follow the same processes, and produce the same results.

Of course, much of the time, projects are of the right standard and you’re right to continue to produce the same results, but sometime there is room for improvement or change. If it were the Truman Show then someone would be employed to work away in the background solving problems and smoothing your path and you’d know nothing about it. In real life, without feedback on whether things are working, the situation can often build to a sudden and unpleasant crash – when a project fails or a system doesn’t work as planned.

Effective feedback is critical for all of us to improve the job we do, maintain standards and learn from our mistakes. For example, if you’re a project manager you use the lessons learnt from each project to improve your performance on the next. Or you use ad hoc feedback from co-worker or your boss to modify your behaviour. You use sales figures to measure the success of a campaign. This process of review and feedback ought to be standard, but often isn’t.

As a manager, there are a few ways you can improve the feedback you provide:

• Make sure the feedback you provide is timely. Don’t wait for the end of a project if you can provide immediate feedback. This is particularly important if the feedback is about behaviour rather than process – make sure the situation is fresh in people’s minds.

• Make sure the feedback you provide is professional and constructive. If there’s a way to improve working methods, then make sure you help the individual or team to think through a solution. Consider whether there’s training that can be provided to improve project success or reduce the time spent on tasks. Is additional support required from the business in terms of resources or process improvement.

• Consider how else you can help going forward. Make it clear when you’ll provide more feedback, either on further changes needed or to support improvement. Do you need to set up a regular review process to formalise feedback, or you/the individual comfortable that ad hoc feedback will have the required impact?

Effective feedback can transform individual and organisation performance, so make sure you’re getting the most out of your people and projects.

This business advice article was provided by Dr Ian Clarkson, Head of Project and Programme Management Product Development at QA – leading providers of Prince2 training. His role provides business direction and ownership of QA’s portfolio, programme, project and risk management curriculum. Ian is an experienced lecturer, author, speaker and consultant, having delivered programmes and projects in all industry sectors.

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