Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Feedback: Making the request specific

without comments

My colleagues in Pune have been collecting feedback over the past week as part of the quarterly feedback cycle and it’s got me thinking about the way that people ask for the feedback.

The most popular way is to ask for general feedback which answers questions like this:

  • What are the things that the individual has done well?
  • What are the things that the individual has not done well and/or needs more focus/improvement?
  • Suggestions for future directions.

The problem I have with this is that it’s extremely generic and it’s much easier to drift towards giving evaluative feedback where you judge the person against some perception of what they ‘should’ be doing.

On the other hand I find it’s much easier to give people feedback if I know them a bit more and have some rough idea of what exactly they want to achieve or which things they are particularly passionate about.

Knowing this information helps to put us in a more supportive mindset and I feel the feedback you come up with in this mindset is more likely to be helpful to the person and will help them get better.

As I mentioned earlier a lot of the time the request for feedback will be general so we’ll need to ask questions to try and elicit the goal the person is currently trying to achieve:

Some examples of goals that I’ve heard about could be:

  • Learning how to drive pieces of functionality to completion
  • Learning a language/framework
  • Learning how to effectively lead a team
  • Learning how to take more responsibility for the success of a team

Some of these are still a bit general so we can then ask further questions to understand what the person has tried already around this and then if possible give some suggestions on approaches that might work better.

That’s what works for me anyway. YMMV.

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Written by Mark Needham

February 6th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Feedback

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