My two young were boys gripped with excitement, watching football on the TV. The game wasn’t quite over but it was time to leave the house. My older son turned the TV off, while my younger son wanted to keep watching. The feedback was instant. Disappointed that the game had abruptly vanished, he smashed his older brother in the face.
This happens with kids. Highly emotional, they’ll react from the heart directly. Not really thinking about the consequences of their actions. The result was an escalation of conflict that didn‘t resolve the situation. Although the feedback was instant it didn’t provide any motivation for my older son to behave differently in the future. It resulted a punch up with both sides focussing on the conflict. What either of them wanted or would like to have in the future was forgotten. All in all a lose-lose.
A badly timed comment can feel like a punch in the head
This is one extreme, the other is no feedback at all. I’ve worked on projects where the team wasn’t given the opportunity to meet, review or give each other structured feedback. The result is then misunderstanding and bottled up tension which reduces the team motivation, leads to lost opportunities for improvements and more unhappiness.
Compare this to how we code. The aim of continuous integration and automated test and deployment is to try and get feedback as fast as possible. The race is on, even in 2005 Facebook was managing 10 deployments per day, more recently we can see Amazon managing one every 11.7 seconds.
Speed is king, the faster the feedback the better. When it comes to continuous deployment, the more iterations you do the better. You can can get feedback more quickly and then make changes and improvements more quickly.
This principle is perfect for coding where there’s no emotion. Dealing with people rather than a compiler requires some modifications, but it’s still key.
Scrum is built on regular feedback:
- In the daily: Chance to discuss things face to face every day.
- Sprint review: Usually every 2 weeks. A dedicated meeting where more time is made available.
- SCALEd Agile: Program Increment Meetings: The chance every 3 months for a boarder meetup and to review the bigger picture.
A manager has an even bigger responsibility to give feedback to the team. As someone with more responsibility and power it is also likely that managers will get less feedback. It’s important to create a safe environment and processes. This allows active feedback between all team members.
Overall I’d advocate giving feedback as soon as possible (continuous integration style) but the most important thing is that the environment is not so emotional. That often means taking a short break and not acting instantly.
This fits with the Harvard Business Review’s, “Understanding When to Give Feedback”
“It should be an ongoing process … and its delivery is well timed.”
If my sons had had the self control to pause and wait for the emotion to die down then they’d have likely avoided a punch up. It’s easy for us adults to laugh at this extreme, I’ve never seen a fist fight at work. For physical reactions we as adults can stay in control, but are we always better than kids when it comes to verbal feedback? Or do we sometimes rush in too quickly while there’s still too much emotion? Or perhaps walk away never giving any feedback, letting the frustration fester and grow?
A badly timed comment can feel like a punch in the head. Do you need to pause before feedback or force yourself to open up? Would a Scrum based feedback cycle help?