07 Apr Three Tips for Giving Effective Feedback
So, you’ve found yourself in the position of having to provide feedback.
Giving feedback on any type of written or visual content might at first seem straightforward. However, just like with any other type of communication, intentions and meaning can be misunderstood if ideas aren’t communicated effectively.
Ineffective feedback can result in scope creep, budget concerns, and delays in completing a task or project. When feedback is provided without clarity, it may be interpreted incorrectly. This can cause errors and frustration from stakeholders who feel that their feedback hasn’t been properly addressed.
Effective feedback helps projects to maintain quality while meeting timelines, staying on budget, and keeping within scope, ensuring your task or project is completed successfully.
Feedback Best Practices
Let’s look at some key fundamental best practices of effective feedback: Effective feedback is organized, consolidated, and actionable.
Our minds don’t always follow a linear thinking path, and sometimes we may have ideas occur to us that don’t necessarily follow the order of the materials we are reviewing. When giving feedback, it’s important to ensure that your comments are provided in a logical order.
If a subject is covered near the end of the material you’re reviewing but the comment is made elsewhere, there is an opportunity for that comment to be misinterpreted, or missed entirely. Giving comments in a logical, sequential order helps the person implementing the feedback stay on track.
If you have a comment that needs to be implemented globally, such as changing every instance of a word or image, make this clear early in the document and indicate that it applies in all instances. If global comments are given only in certain instances, it may be assumed that these are the only instances where the changes need to be applied.
When multiple stakeholders, subject matter experts and other reviewers are providing feedback, it’s important to ensure they have a chance to review each other’s comments rather than providing their feedback separately. When feedback is provided in this way, the reviewers don’t have a chance to see what else has been said, and they may contradict each other.
To address this, have one reviewer oversee all the comments and ensure clear instructions are given and questions are resolved, decide which comments are correct, and remove contradictions before returning the feedback.
The overseeing reviewer then consolidates the feedback and returns it in one source, whether it’s a document, an email, a review log, or a meeting.
In our day-to-day communications, there is a tendency toward politeness and passivity when expressing a request or a critique. As a result, the need for clear, decisive action can sometimes be miscommunicated in the form of a question or a suggestion. This results in vague feedback that will require clarification.
The best approach is to give clear, specific instructions in the active voice. In other words, tell them what to do! Actionable feedback includes an action item that requests a specific change. Vague feedback is open to interpretation and may be interpreted incorrectly, opening up the potential for errors to be introduced.
Here are some types of statements to avoid:
- Feedback that ends with a question: “Should we…?”
- Uncertain feedback: “I’m not sure if…”
- Comments that leave the decision to someone else: “Consider changing…”
- Observational statements with no instructions: “This isn’t quite right…”
- Ambiguous feedback: “What if it was more like…”
TIP: If you’re reviewing an MS Word document, the “track changes” feature is the most direct, precise and actionable way to give specific feedback on verbiage.
Before returning your feedback…
Think about how you would like to receive feedback. Read your comments from the perspective of the person who will be implementing them. Are they clear and actionable? Great! Now the final thing is to make sure you return the feedback in the manner requested.
The feedback requester may ask for comments to be provided in a Word document, a specially designed review log, in a Google doc, by email, or in a meeting. If the requester doesn’t provide instructions, it’s a good idea to ask how they want to receive the feedback. Check to make sure it’s organized, consolidated, and actionable.
Following these best practices will make the process smoother for everyone involved, and ensure your feedback is understood and implemented in exactly the way you intended.