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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1129 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Does your business have a feedback lab?

07.25.2013
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Feedback is a critical part of the improvement process.  Without accurate and timely feedback it’s almost impossible to improve and learn from our mistakes, be that as individuals, as teams or as organisations.

The Feedback Lab is an organisation looking to aid this process in our civic institutions, be they government bodies or non-governmental organisations.  Their manifesto consists of three basic questions:

  1. “What do citizens want?”
  2. “Are they getting it?”
  3. “If not, how will things change?”

With a particular emphasis on the last point of facilitating that change by connecting up the feedback with the people who can deliver change.  It’s a fascinating, and no doubt much needed, project that will hopefully assist some big improvements in public service delivery.

What about the private sector though?  How good is your organisation at soliciting feedback on performance and delivering that insight to the people that are equipped to make the changes needed?  Lets look at a couple of the key areas of corporate feedback.

Internal performance feedback

Most of us suffer from illusory superiority bias, which in other words means we often think we’re much better at things than we actually are.  This is born out by research by various management organisations showing that managers seldom share the same perspective on their performance as the people they manage.

The issue of accurate feedback remains one that too many organisations fail to get right.  The annual performance appraisal is far too infrequent to do the job effectively, whilst it’s unlikely that many organisations have a sufficiently strong culture to support negative feedback between employees and managers.

“In our organization, we seem to be excellent at praise when things are going well,” is a typical response from one such survey. “But when things are not necessarily going well, we are shy about an honest discussion because we fear how this tough (although positive feedback) criticism will be taken. We prefer the silent treatment in fear of offending and de-motivating the individual. Every time this happens, the organization loses.”

Of course, feedback shouldn’t just be negative.  Telling someone they’re doing a great job is often the single most effective form of motivation you can offer them, yet is something too many of us are reluctant to provide.

Do you need a feedback lab?

Suffice to say that internal feedback is just one of the various kinds of feedback you can receive on your performance.  Customers should regularly be providing you with insights into how you’re performing, whether that’s by crunching the analytics to spot trends or through more formal feedback mechanisms such as idea storms or customer surveys.

The question I have however is whether feedback is so important that you need a group of people within your organisation who are dedicated to soliciting accurate feedback, and ensuring it reaches the right people (in the right format) to make changes possible?  Is feedback important enough to warrant a dedicated team rather than having it as part of our roles as it is at the moment?

I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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