The secret detriment of feedback loops
Everyone’s heard of project management feedback loops and how the goal of implementing them is to improve your execution and outcomes. The problem is that the feedback usually comes through a project dashboard or post-project “lessons learned,” which focus on accomplishment (or lack thereof) and not the process it took to get there.
All feedback loops have limitations
There are many different types of feedback loops out there, whether it be positive, negative, internal, external, or the ubiquitous “lessons learned.” Many, when applied, have a common goal: to find out where your project is going downhill so you can place blame on someone or something.
In fact, the term “feedback loop,” to us, is really a misnomer because it is usually a unidirectional effort disguised as a loop. In contrast, a true loop should allow for bidirectional feedback. Instead, we prefer to refer to it as “habitual learning.”
Take the “Lessons Learned” exercise, for instance. Often, lessons don’t carry forward into future projects; it is simply a check box exercise designed to get everyone in a room and feel good that they “learned” something. And that’s the true tragedy of misusing feedback loops. The reason for this is because the learning that should occur during the execution of a project isn’t usually discussed until the end of a project. Or, even worse, after a new one has already begun. And who cares by that point? You’re already on to the next thing, making the same mistakes as the last thing.
Habitual learning is about real-time feedback… or at least, it should be.
Waiting until the completion of a project to review what you learned and find out where the cracks in the facade, allow the continuation of frustration and lack of engagement on the part of team members.
Without daily or weekly checking in and assessing a team’s handle on things, you can’t pivot and make the necessary changes to move the project along at a reasonable pace while keeping the team members from feeling overwhelmed and confused.
That perpetual cycle of overwhelm and confusion leads to unhappy team members who feel like they’re not being valued and, as a result, will begin to dread working on future projects.
By not instilling regular learning into the execution of a project, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to create positive, effective, and efficient changes in your approach to projects and how team members handle their roles within them.
Have you ever noticed that at the end of each project, when it comes time to review your lessons learned, you keep getting lack-luster responses. For example: “well, we really needed to work on our communication during this project” or “time management was an issue for us on this project” or our favorite, “We should have clarified roles and responsibilities better,” which is code for “I did sh*t I didn’t sign up to do.”
Weren’t those the same issues on the last project? And the one before that? And are any of those really insightful, or are they just fundamental? It’s like saying, “the next time you go running, remember to breathe.” You get the picture.
Head problems off at the pass
Making a habit out of consistent feedback and learning allows you to quickly and efficiently address an issue in its infancy. Otherwise, it grows and festers. Bad news doesn’t age well, and if you ignore it and try to push through, the problem becomes a demanding houseguest who won’t move off your couch.
Not only will this proactive approach allow you to stay on track with project timelines, but it will also tell your team that you care about what their concerns are and how you can help them get through projects with as little stress as possible.
Your time to shine
Making habitual learning a part of your project’s “regularly scheduled programming” will finally help you break through those barriers in which your team is just making the same mistakes over and over and getting seriously disheartened because of them.
How you respond to regular and raw feedback from your team will have direct and tangible results on the type of feedback you begin to receive. It allows you to foster a nurturing environment where team members feel valued and heard.
The underlying assumption is that your team can fully execute a project on time and successfully, right? Your job as an effective leader is to uncover issues that prevent this. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to get people to say they’re really distracted or stressed out. Often stress is caused by something going on at home, like a significant health diagnosis.
The bottom line is that your team doesn’t want to let you down. And you definitely don’t want to let them down. This is when an intentional commitment to make learning a habit can be a game-changer. It allows you to hear honest, uncensored feedback and address it accordingly, reinforcing the most important aspect of learning – building an awareness that will enable you to make a different choice.
Setting up an effective “Habitual Learning” structure can be daunting.
This is where we come in. At One TEAM Partners, we come from a human perspective. We use communication on a personal level with you and your employees to gain insight into what makes you and your team unique and build a structure that will allow you to lead with authenticity.
We’ll teach you tools to respond to feedback from your teams in an honest, open, and welcoming way to foster further feedback. We’ve all worked somewhere where we felt like our feedback was unwelcome and our opinions didn’t count. It sucks. And we’ll help you avoid making that same mistake.
Even if you’re in the middle of a project that is stressing you or your team out, you don’t have to wait until it culminates to find out how to regain control and engagement.
Call us to find out how we can schedule a face-to-face meeting to learn what your needs, goals, and desires are for your company. We’ll help you use that information to set up your own set of lessons learned.
Don’t be deterred by the idea of receiving and using feedback to make important changes. The sooner you figure them out, the better off your company will be. Let’s make your organization one that’s positive, full of integrity, growth productivity, and profitability.