The importance of feedback

When I first became a tech lead, I realised that feedback from my team was essential. A lot of things had gone wrong and I needed to know why, and how to fix them. What I failed to appreciate right away, until it was pointed out to me, was how important feedback to the team is too.

We did our regular retrospectives, and ad-hoc post mortems as required. We gathered a list of actions. I got on with some and others had lower priority. And at the next meeting we’d have a new list of actions.

And the team got frustrated because they thought the meetings were a waste of time. And it was only when one of the team members expressed that frustration that I realised that the frustration stemmed from my lack of feedback to them.

If an action isn’t fed back, did it really happen?

I’d done the first part, action. Making sure the tasks that were generated weren’t all impotent, but I missed the importance of the second step. Without that feedback from me, the feedback from the team dried up, frustration increased and problems went unvoiced and unfixed.

So I made a point of regular updates. Both in stand-ups and as a written report, as I felt that suited the distributed team better. And I reported successes and failures, giving reasons as best I could.

And suddenly I found that some of the actions I had de-prioritised were very important to someone else, who then asked for permission to fix it. And mostly, I let them. And the team weren’t just fixing customer problems, they were fixing their own frustrations too.

And I reported them all. Here’s what we reported, here’s what we fixed. And I reported it to make sure those who weren’t at the coalface could see what was happening, so we had a record we could review when we wanted to know why a decision was made.

It wasn’t perfect but it had a massive impact on the motivation and the success of the team.

Make Actions Work

Don’t let actions be impotent.

Don’t let actions out of meetings be empty. Record them. Assign them. Report on them.

It sounds obvious, but as a tech lead, that should be your priority. If the team doesn’t get feedback, they won’t be motivated.

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3 thoughts on “The importance of feedback

    1. Definitely agree. I think my biggest surprise was how effective feedback on problems was. Suddenly everyone became more invested in fixing them, and the whole team was able to provide solutions, and feedback.

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