How we work 

Feedback

How we think about Feedback at Adaptive Lab

Product development is - in most cases - a complex endeavour where you need a high level of collaboration and teamwork to reach the required outcome.
To succeed, participants need to build on each other’s strengths and knowledge, and see differences as something valuable and important.
— Anders Laestadius, Agile Coach

We believe receiving feedback is...

  • Essential for our development as individuals and teams
  • Essential for our performance in highly collaborative, mixed discipline teams
  • Essential for our leadership development and becoming coaching leaders

 

We believe strongly in taking on board user feedback when developing our products, and doing so early in the process. We apply this same thinking to our career development: Getting input from others helps us become better and gain insights that can influence our future choices. 

Both seeking and giving feedback should happen often, and focus on one thing at a time. 

What is Feedback?

Feedback can illuminate your strengths or give you greater awareness of areas for improvement. In a team context it can help us understand each others strengths, gaps, and preferences, so that we can work more collaboratively and effectively. 

Feedback is not the same as a review. It is real time. It is about what you do, not who you are

What can feedback be about?

  • Personal Impact - this feedback is about how you show up and impact others, and it is largely related to communication and interpersonal dynamics. This is most important feedback for team effectiveness and leadership skills development 

  • Your work - this feedback is about your contribution from a practice area perspective, looking at your technical skills and quality of delivery. ie. if you’re a designer getting feedback about your design work. 

  • Product - this feedback is about your collective efforts, effectiveness and output. 

As a studio we are looking at Personal Impact feedback as a vital resource to increase our impact as teams. 

JOHARI WINDOW - A model for thinking about Interpersonal Dynamics. Feedback can tell us about our 'blind spots'.

JOHARI WINDOW - A model for thinking about Interpersonal Dynamics. Feedback can tell us about our 'blind spots'.


What are qualities of helpful feedback 

This list was generated with help from ALabbers who participated in the Feedback Training workshops.

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How do I get more feedback?

You should be seeking feedback on a regular basis from a variety of people across the studio.

A simple way to get better quality feedback from people is to 'request and direct' by asking for just one thing at a time. These are some example questions you can try, but do experiment with your own versions. This technique is from "Thanks for the Feedback" book. 

  • “What is one thing you’d like to see me do more of in the team?”
  • “What is one thing you see me doing that is holding me back?”
  • “I’m trying to improve my skills in [one area of development]. Can you give me some feedback when I [am practicing that thing]”

A four-step 'recipe' for giving feedback

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1. Ways to share your Observation

This is what you personally have observed first-hand, and from your perspective. 
Use a specific recent example. Don’t assume someone’s intent or rationale. 
Avoid speaking on behalf of other people. 

Observation statements

Something I noticed.. [behaviour you’ve observed first hand]  Like when [recent fact-based example]"

Alternatives:

When weWhen you…do [action or activity]”

A time I am thinking of is… [recent fact-based example]"

 

Appreciative statements

What I really appreciate about working with you is.. [behaviour you’ve observed first hand that you truly value]  Like when [recent example]"


2. Ways to describe Impact 

The Impact stage is different from the factual observation of what happened. Use this step to describe why and how it had an impact on you. This gives the recipient an opportunity to understand your personal perspective, so present it as such. 

Here you can describe consequences interpretation, and feelings. It may sometimes be just a consequence or just a feeling, or it might be both. 

Describe consequences

There may be quite an objective fact about the impact of someone's behaviour. So you can state this upfront before describing any feelings or interpretations. 

Eg. "When you missed stand-up this morning it meant you didn't hear what everyone else shared." 

Using I-statements 

This was an approach coined by Thomas Gordon, an American clinical psychologist who is widely recognised as a pioneer in teaching communication skills and conflict resolution methods.

I-statementfeedback is a way to describe things from your personal perspective, to avoid labels and blame that may cause a defensive reaction. It encourages the speaker to 'own' their feelings and preferences avoiding the "you made me feel" trap. 

For example:

I feel ___ / I felt __ " (taking responsibility for one's own feelings)

I don't like it when __"  (stating the behaviour or action)

I prefer it when __ " (sharing your preference)


3. Pause to Clarify 

Hold it!  This is a chance to let the feedback sink in. Pause. Demonstrate active listening.  You can ask a clarifying question here to check you have agreement on the facts of what happened at this point. 

"Eg. Is that how you remember it?"

If you're delivering some challenging feedback, a denial or defensive reaction can be entirely normal. Don't take this as a rejection of your feedback. This can also be a good point to pause your conversation and suggest another time to talk about what to do about it, so the recipient can take time to digest. 


4. Making requests or suggestions

After completing the other steps, you can make a request - not a demand! - for how you’d like things to be in the future or make a suggestion for a different way. Again remember your I-statements, and remain curious rather than fixed about solutions.

For example:

What I’d like to see more of from you is… 

What I’d prefer is…

Would you be open to trying it this way?

I value [X thing] and so I’d like

My suggestion is that we


Some bonus steps for prep and follow-up:

Ask first

Always start by asking permission to give feedback to someone. This means they are ready to receive it.  This is the only bit of the feedback steps you could do on Slack. Find a private space to have the conversation, or a time of day that works for you both. Praise can and should happen in public, but really sinks in when you give it face-to-face too. 

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Explore and experiment 

Approach feedback conversations with a spirit of humble inquiry and curiosity. If you come from a place where you think your way is RIGHT and their way is WRONG it’s going to be very difficult to get to a resolution. 

In her book, Radical Candor, Kim Scott says we should "Care personally, challenge directly". You've given feedback because you're interested in supporting someone's ongoing development - so set a date to follow up on how things are going. 

Reflection question: What does the feedback we give others tell us about ourselves?  


What's wrong with telling someone what they should Stop/Start/Continue?

When we introduce the word "should" in giving feedback we are no longer making a request. We're also giving our coworker quite a lot of opinions without a lot of context. 

There are better frameworks to generate helpful feedback. Keep SSC for talking about which activities are generating value in your project process - not about people. 

If you are a Development Manager helping set expectations, this is different from 'feedback' that an ALabber is making choices about. Make sure you are clear about what is offered from a personal perspective and what is expected from Adaptive Lab on an organisational level. 


Source materials and further reading:

If you only read one thing:

Other good articles on feedback: 

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If you want to deep dive...

Watch: Carol Dweck speak about her research and book "The Growth Mindset" to Google employees (2015) 


The content in this resource is influenced and inspired by researchers, experts and existing models which are listed above or referenced. This resource and accompanying training deck is for internal use only due to copyright reasons.