Feedback on Feedback? The Best Way To Communicate With Your Colleagues!
The following is a response to Jane Prusakova’s piece Honest, or Nice, published in the collection, Best Agile Articles 2017 (edited by Michael de la Maza, CEC & Cherie Silas, CEC).
Making the move from working in a traditional, and restrictive style of project management, to an agile one is not done without apprehension. However, one area that often gets tripped up upon during this process, despite seldom being flagged up, is the idea of how best to communicate your opinions with your colleagues.
It isn’t uncommon to feel like your voice isn’t heard at work, in many industries, workers may perceive themselves as mere cogs in a machine. But, as part of a newly establishing agile team, you are now in the position where you can share your opinions without worrying about the consequences of speaking out of turn.
But how does one go about this?
One of the main things I learned during my studies, before joining The Agile Works, was the distinction between honesty and being nice for the sake of it. During my university studies, the primary resource for improving our work, was the rest of the cohort. We would dedicate multiple lessons per semester to what we called “workshopping”, the act of sharing, dismantling and providing feedback on one another’s poetry, prose, or essay writing.
I vividly remember, during my first ever university class, being told by one of my lecturers that by the end of the first term of study, we would all have learned how to give “proper” feedback; feedback that was concise and constructive, providing insight about how to go about making changes, instead of simply telling our classmates what we liked about a piece. Especially, if there were many things wrong with it.
The role of the cohort for workshopping sessions at university was essential; working together, we were able to flesh out ideas that were not necessarily as well developed as we would have liked. Of course, there were times where some got upset over the three years, myself included. Primarily due to the way the feedback was presented.
If you are striving to provide honest feedback, the best way to do so is to explore how you feel about something, and why. Some of the worst pieces of creative feedback I received were focused on superficial details that irritated the reader for reasons out of my control, like their personal dislike of colour symbolism due to having had all the meanings of the colour red memorised for their English exam on Of Mice And Men. The same could easily occur in a working environment; perhaps mentioning to a senior colleague that you do not want to work with someone due to them exhibiting several of your pet peeves. What would your manager say? Probably “get over it”. Because, there is nothing that can be done, by the company, to rectify something that stems from your own issues.
Justifying your opinions, with tangible examples is also a proactive way to provide feedback to your colleagues. Just as, in our workshops, we would highlight a repeated phrase, to make the writer aware that they were likely far too invested in the flow of the narrative to have even realised. Being able to explore the ways that something could be changed, is genuinely much more helpful than just nodding along, not wanting to flag up your qualms and queries.
And lastly, if there is anything positive you wish to share, say it. In workshop sessions, it was not uncommon for an unsuspecting writer’s “3am eureka moment” to be absolutely flayed by the rest of the workshopping group, and any nice things you can add in, are always appreciated. Especially, if everyone else has been negative. Not everyone knows how to provide feedback, and your positivity could potentially provide the encouragement to allow that person to keep pursuing their project when they felt like giving up.
It's okay to be nice, you work with these people. But, the most important aspect of being allowed to give feedback, is sharing your opinions. If you lay them out in a manner that provides examples, or reasoning, it is much more likely to be taken on board. When making the transition into an agile workforce, being unsure of what to say is completely understandable. But you and your team made this move to allow for better communication. Everyone is looking forward to hearing what you have to say!
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.
To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org