Feedback as continuous improvement

The beauty of continuous improvement is that it turns all criticism into feedback.

Joseph De Araujo – 5:24am

The way I understand it, a “continuous improvement” approach is one that is always open to change. It is a way to remain ready to consider possibilities gathered in hindsight. It’s basically listening, then acting on new estimates. There are several different approaches, but with this foundation in mind, you can turn any criticism into valuable feedback that will help you understand how your project is being perceived.

Your mantra will soon be: All feedback is welcomed. All opinions noted.

The problems with feedback

Sometimes it’s not always constructive. In some cases, it’s fueled by jealousy or malice, and it’s actually delivered in a destructive sense. It might have been presented in a feedback loop, but it was directed to harm you or the project.

Other feedback is mis-informed, so the parties giving feedback may be measuring based on bad data. The intention then may be good, but the advice or recommendation is based on a shaky foundation or no foundation – it’s just guess work.

Sometimes, feedback can be, what I like to call, “plain ol’ subjective matter” – it’s just an opinion, but based on the likes, preferences, emotions, & feelings of THAT one person. You need to decide how much of that subjective matter might be shared with other people, before acting on it.

Positive feedback can make you feel good, but do the wrong things. The main problem I have with positive feedback is that it is very difficult to give positive feedback in the first place, so it’s hard to gauge the experience level of the giver. If it’s just positive to make you feel good, then that will be the reward. If flattery was the intention, then it won’t help your project.

Dealing with negative feedback

Discernment is a skill that will allow you to distinguish the haters.

Current author

Some people, for whatever reason, will just give you negative feedback, no matter what the circumstance. They may just have a culture of pessimism, but it doesn’t mean you have to let that in.

In the previous section, I mentioned when feedback is given from a totally subjective perspective. Don’t take it personally and don’t instantly wall up and defend yourself or your project – that’s the best time to flex your listening ‘muscles’, pull out your mental notebook & just retain the parts of the feedback that might be true.

Dealing with positive feedback

It’s very difficult to quantify a “Wow!!!!” or “Yes, that’s fantastic!!”

Positive feedback needs clarification and should spark interest & create an avenue for questioning. Don’t stop when something is said to be ‘working’. It may need to be maintained to remain sustainable.

If the positive feedback was given just before some negative feedback, it might be some good old fashioned human behaviour where we like to package bad things in nice packages. Positive feedback can soften the blow to the real feedback, which was the negative. This doesn’t mean the positive is meaningless, however it wasn’t as important.

Ask yourself if the feedback was just a compliment. Is the feedback actionable, and if the reverse were true would this be a negative item instead?