TITLE: Individuals and Feedback in the Organization AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 07, 2009 7:45 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Yesterday, I mentioned writing reports for a campus-wide Academic Program Assessment. While the process of gathering data and writing it up was laborious and, at times, stultifying, I did learn some things about our programs and department. Data can be illuminating. Feedback is good. Reflection is a worthwhile activity. But collecting data, studying it, and crafting a story of feedback are time-consuming, and many people in my department and university think that doing so spends time that could be contributing to our substantive goals. Of course getting feedback can and should contribute to the substantive goal of doing our jobs, and doing them better. The problem is pushing the working of collecting data and studying it out of the daily workflow and then making it an onerous and extended interruption of the workflow. Kent and Ward got something right when they talked about finding a way to work feedback -- rapid, automated, and as inexpensive as possible -- into the daily act of making something. This post is a rerun of a previous post, or maybe two! But every once in a while I feel myself in a rerun mode, a rerun mood. Bureaucracy on one side of the process and cynicism on the other get in the way of changing how and when to gather and use organizational feedback more effectively. How can we get better? How do I get better? Last week, I read this passage from Liz Keogh and took comfort from it:
Whatever we do with the story, in order to get feedback, it has to show something that the business can understand and on which they can give us feedback. If you can't get feedback, nobody cares. If nobody cares, it's not a story. (If you're having problems getting feedback from your business, try delivering something.)
Perhaps one way to combat cynicism from people who have reason to be cynical is to craft a better story. Maybe I don't get feedback because the story I ask them to work on is not a story to them. Maybe I could get better or more feedback by delivering something. When things don't go as well as I might hope, it is not always my fault. And when I share responsibility, it is not always only my fault. (I know -- I need to make a move away from the language of blame and find a way to think about making things better. Another of Liz's posts reminded me of that, too!) But... All I can fix is myself, and what I do. Generally, trying to fix others does not work well, and even when it does, it doesn't make for an effective long-term strategy to move the team or the department forward. So, how can I do better? -----