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Get Feed-Forward not Feed-Back

Posted: March 5, 2010 by Rob Voyle

Are you tired of unproductive ways of helping people to change?

Despite giving them lots of feedback they just keep doing what they are doing?
Or do you find that when people want to give you constructive criticism it rarely feels constructive? If you answered yes to any of these questions then consider getting or giving feed-forward rather than feedback to the people that you work with.

Feedback is a critique or judgment about something we did in the past. It can be positive or negative, but research shows that neither positive or negative feedback is very helpful in actually getting people to change their behavior. Knowing how you messed up doesn't help you know what to do differently. Most of the time unsolicited solicitude is just a trespass and feedback leads to defensiveness rather than excellence.

While feedback doesn't help people change, research does show that feed-forward is helpful in helping people to change. Feed-forward is information about what to do differently in the future to ensure success. If people want to criticize your work don't let them go until they give you specific feed-forward as well.

When assessing outcomes we ask two questions:
What was valuable in what we did?
What would make it more valuable in the future if we were to do it again?
The first question provides feedback. The second seeks feed-forward. Asking these two questions orients us to growing in excellence rather than wallowing in and replicating past failure.

Rob Voyle

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