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Continuous Improvement blogFeedback

Please Provide Feedback

This must be one of the most commonly used phrases over the last few years. We are all desperate for feedback…especially when we agree with it.

This blog looks at 5 of the feedback pitfalls and will be complemented with a second piece that proposes considerations to make the feedback process robust and work for you.


1 – Frequency & Relevance

A few months ago, when I commuted to work, my 10-minute walk from the train station would usually comprise 2 or 3 feedback surveys. Now I wasn’t buying anything, or experiencing a service, or even browsing possibilities. I happened to be walking within the range of certain stores WIFI. This then engaged (in a manner I don’t understand) with my mobile and, Ping (opens phone) please rate your experience with… I end up with a shopping satisfaction survey for Dorothy Perkins.

In the enthusiasm to get feedback its important we target the right people at the right time. Poor response rates due to weak targeting significantly undermine what any feedback may be telling you.


2 – I enjoyed that session

Did you enjoy that? Yes, I really enjoyed that, it was very enjoyable.

Not to say the experience should not be enjoyable, but be cautious if this is either the first or only piece of feedback. Training and workshops always have a purpose, a deliverable. We are trying to change a status quo with new knowledge or behavioural change. Your first objective, I’m willing to bet (unless you maybe work in TV or radio), is not enjoyment, but providing the tools to deliver the change and likely ongoing impact from this session.

Enjoyment is a desirable plus to support embedding the message, but in isolation is as likely to refer to the complementary lunch, early finish, or distraction from a particularly tedious task awaiting the person back at the ranch.


3 – The Perfect 10

Are you unrivalled in your delivery? Were the materials and facilities faultless? Was the workshop or training PERFECT?

Receipt of a feedback form where everything is 10/10 always sets alarm bells ringing with me. After reflecting on each session and always looking for improvements, this evaluation will be at odds with my own.

This ‘perfect’ score could represent many positives; the activity being beyond all expectations, so it’s much better than the norm and pitched right on the money.

Be wary of other possible reasons - I organised and paid for this course so it needs to be great, I wasn’t really paying attention but want to be nice, and for internal courses the need to not burn bridges and rock the boat with a potentially influential colleague.



4 – Oh dear…what happened there?

I was in a training review workshop once when this question was asked about a low score. The person who delivered the training was immediately isolated from the team, and the discussion, by the implication they had ‘done something’.

Accepting feedback is a lot easier if it’s good, but the most useful feedback tends to be constructive. It’s in our DNA to accept feedback personally and we need to be brave to put our heads above the parapet. The easy job is providing comment, creating, innovating, and delivering is exposing, particularly when we ask for feedback!

‘I know who wrote that! It was the guy with the blue shirt who kept asking all those difficult questions, he just didn’t get it!’

Maybe he didn’t get it, however the feedback should be prompting you to find out why.


5 – Comparing apples with pears

It’s challenging to extract meaningful trend data from feedback that is just asking how we did in free text. If you can’t extract consistent data then you don’t see whether you are improving or regressing and can’t spot anomalies. Even the simplest feedback model needs structure.  Airport security for example have the Happy, OK, Sad face mechanism on electronic buttons. This provides consistent feedback they can extrapolate against other factors such as volume of passengers and time.

Frequently changing the wording, questions asked, and information sought, will leave you without comparison, without baseline to improve from, and uncertainty on what good looks like.


These are some of the pitfalls I’ve come across in seeking feedback. This blog must seem like an issues list with no help manual. Next month I’ll be producing a follow up blog suggesting some approaches to combat these pitfalls and ensure a robust feedback process.

In the meantime, give some consideration to these 5 the next time you are asked for feedback.