The art of giving feedback, a fondamental principle of agility

The art of giving feedback, a fondamental principle of agility

Author : Ievgeniia Zinchenko (Consultante Innovation, Agilité et Management) chez Astrakhan - Published date : May 5, 2021

One of the fundamental principles of agility is to have continuous feedback. The more comments we receive, the more we adapt to new requirements, and therefore the faster we will make improvements to our product or even our methods of collaboration. This principle of continuous improvement is at the heart of the agile mind and continuous feedback is the solid foundation. Why do we need to give feedback? And how do you give quality feedback? Our article below will answer these questions.

For many people, 2020 was not the easiest year. It made us rethink many things including the ways we live and work. For many businesses, it has had a huge economic impact on their activities, but also on the way they organise their work. Many enterprises have struggled to change their old “business-as-usual” managerial practices and adapt to the new realities. However, these new circumstances actually might be a positive nudge for a long-needed change in the way we organise our work.

More and more businesses are moving to fully remote organisation. Remote work becomes the new black. So, the earlier we understand this unavoidable evolution of work organisation practices, the earlier we will be able to use its benefits and the easier the transition will be. In other words, we will be more agile within new circumstances.

Without doubt, remote work brings a lot of benefits, both for the employer and the employee. It builds a relationship of autonomy, self-organisation and trust between colleagues and within enterprises. If we work with an agile methodology, it is also necessary to discover challenges and nuances of keep on being agile while working remotely.

Why one of the fundamental principles of agility is continuous feedback?

The more we receive feedback, the more we adapt to new requirements, therefore the sooner we will build in improvements in our product or in the ways we collaborate. This principle of continuous improvement is at the core of the agile spirit and continuous feedback is its solid foundation. With the new changes in management and work organisation, the art of giving feedback gains new relevance.

Let’s go back to our fundamentals, and let’s see what a “sacred” writing of agility, namely the Agile Manifesto tells us on the role of the feedback. The first value of the Agile Manifesto states ‘individuals and interaction over processes and tools’. Feedback is an important form of interaction within an agile team. Let’s look at the principles behind the Agile Manifesto:

● Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project;

● The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation;

● At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

All these principles imply the importance of feedback in agility. It generates effective communication, creates a trust-based environment and guides your team in the right direction. Frequently delivered feedback brings more transparency and alignment within your team, it helps the team to move forward. From this, we can see that feedback is a fundamental tool used within an agile team. It is also a powerful means of continuous improvement, both personal and professional.

The art of giving feedback is a core skill in agility.

Several years ago, Astrakhan in collaboration with the Management 3.0 community created an educative module called Better Feedback. In this module we touched upon questions like :

● Why feedback is so important?

● How can we give constructive feedback without a person becoming defensive?

● How can we advise on areas of improvement in a respectful way?

● What is the best approach to deliver your feedback?

A great technique that we recommend is Feedback Wrap. This practice is simple, structured and will help you learn how to deliver your feedback in an effective way. Here are principle ingredients of the Feedback Wrap:

1) Describe your context

2) List your observations

3) Express your feelings

4) Explain the value

5) Offer some suggestions

This technique provides the opportunity to give honest feedback without making a person uncomfortable or defensive, but more receptive. Additionally, this method offers a solution-based approach, when you not only provide feedback, but also try to suggest solutions to the problem and a hand to resolve them together.

Another good feedback practice is Kudo Boxes and Kudo Walls. It usually involves Kudo cards, – a written recognition or/and appreciation, – that you address to a colleague or colleagues. Kudo cards could be placed in a Kudo Box and then revealed by the team or on the Kudo Wall, where they can be visible to everyone.

Positive feedback plays an important role and is a great motivator for team spirit. Taking some time to say thank you and show gratitude to your colleagues will motivate, inspire, increase growth, happiness and contribute to the feeling of trust and purpose within the team.

Additionally, while practicing Kudos, it’s important to wipe out all the hierarchical borders, encouraging feedback between colleagues no matter their position, whether it is addressed to a junior, peer or a manager.

Another technique for giving feedback is the Happiness Door. The idea is that each person will put their feedback on the post-it on the door when leaving the room. This way the feedback will be anonymous but visible to everyone. The door can be replaced by a wall, a board, a window – the principle stays the same. Creativity is appreciated as always, you can create different rules, put different questions, divide into categories; anything that will encourage people freely share their opinion and leave honest feedback.

Returning to our Agile Manifesto, let’s look at the second mentioned principle,

“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information … is face-to-face conversation”.

How we can make sure that we still convey information to our team in an efficient and effective way, when all our team works from different parts of the world? If we can’t talk face-to-face, does it mean we are not agile anymore? Of course not! You can be fully agile while working remotely. The idea is that you interact with a person in real time, with video where possible to eliminate any kinds of misunderstanding. To reach this goal with the remote teams, we simply have to find the right application and turn our camera on.

However, working with remote teams still might bring some challenges. Obstacles can be various, starting from different times zones which make it difficult to find a common time to schedule a call, having constant technical problems during the call and ending with feedback that is too delayed and becomes irrelevant. Keeping these questions in mind, Astrakhan decided to start updating the Better Feedback module to include specifics of working with remote teams.

We can outline three Golden Rules of feedback that applies to each team whether it’s onsite or remote:

1) Provide feedback as early as possible. This is important because the person will still be capable of adapting and changing something. If you provide it too late, it may no longer be helpful or relevant.

2) Make it your team’s habit. Constant feedback makes your team grow continuously and develops a culture of mutual trust and collaboration. Explain to your team that it is crucial for personal and collective progress.

3) Feedback should be a two-way conversation. It is important that it won’t be just top-down instructions. You can also encourage your team members to give feedback for each other.

Nothing affects the learning culture of an organisation more than the skill with which its executive team receives feedback.

– Douglas Stone, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well