Feedback Loops and Constructive Criticism

Photo by ManoRegejimas

Photo by ManoRegejimas

Today I went to another Toastmasters meeting and served as the General Evaluator for the meeting.  One of the things that I like about Toastmasters is that feedback loops are built into each meeting.  As the General Evaluator, I was responsible for introducing the evaluators for each of the prepared speeches and providing my own feedback on the overall meeting.  This week I was named the Best of the Big 3 (the Big 3 are the Toastmaster of the Day, the Table Topics Master, and the General Evaluator)!  Hopefully some of my comments will result in improvements of the club's meetings.  But while it's an honor to be recognized, I did not receive any criticism--constructive or otherwise.  It was a missed opportunity for a feedback loop.

Feedback loops are also an important part of my work--the major theme of Scrum is "inspect and adapt."  By doing Scrum, teams regularly inspect the product increment they have created with their stakeholders so they can receive feedback to be incorporated into the product.  A great sprint review meeting is a collaborative work session, and the discussion leads to valuable changes in the product backlog.  Teams later inspect themselves and how the sprint went during the sprint retrospective meeting.  Retrospectives are my favorite meeting in scrum--the Scrum Master has a lot of responsibility in designing and facilitating an effective retrospective, and a well-run retrospective can generate positive energy for the next sprint.  I recently co-presented a lunch and learn session about Retrospectives, and it's been exciting to see Scrum Masters adopting some new ideas into their teams' meetings.  Sprint reviews and retrospectives can be extremely valuable, but only if the attendees know how to use those feedback loops to effectively provide constructive criticism.

Are you taking advantage of feedback loops?  Do you provide constructive criticism to those around you who are seeking to improve their skills or work?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.