When measuring the performance of a team, the viewpoint from which that assessment is conducted matters. A team may carry out an assessment of its work itself, or it might be done by the organization or conducted externally by a customer. Depending on whether the assessment is carried out by the team, the organization or the customer, the parameters for judging performance may vary slightly. A team judges itself primarily by its work, while the organization judges a team’s performance by its impact on the organization’s goals. The customer judges team performance using parameters which may be significantly different from those used by the team and the organization.
For these reasons, it is essential that a team be able to get feedback on its work from other stakeholders, both inside and outside the organization. Since its terms of reference are limited to its goals only, the team needs the larger organizational perspective and customer point of view to help keep its work relevant. Given the fact that the team was set up to meet the needs of the customer and the organization, their opinions may weigh more in determining if the team is doing what it was designed to do. This is why it is critical that systems and mechanisms exist that enable teams to receive feedback from customers, branches, internal clients, etc.
How this system is organized will determine the timeliness, quality and relevance of the feedback the team receives. By making this a priority, the organization places itself in the position to reap the most benefits from the work of the team. Adequate feedback mechanisms can eliminate waste, conflict and misunderstanding. It will also facilitate the work of the team, allowing it to do only work that is productive in a way that meets the actual needs and expectations of the organization, as well as the customer. The existence of good feedback is a win-win for everyone involved.
Creating An Environment That Encourages Feedback
How a team is set up from its inception can improve or damage its ability to request, receive, accept and respond to feedback. The surrounding culture of the environment will influence the attitudes the teams and its members inherit. It is almost impossible for a team operating within an environment dominated by closed groups to open itself to scrutiny from outside. Therefore there are important factors within the organization which will influence the group’s ability to receive feedback.
Trust: The primary basis for providing and accepting feedback is trust. If a ‘we’ mindset exists within the organization, rather than an ‘us against them’ state of mind, the stage is already set for the free exchange of ideas. Otherwise, what arises within the group is a feeling of persecution, and it does not view feedback that it receives as an honest appraisal. Trust creates transparency in feedback.
Communication: A communicative environment promotes feedback. If people have many opportunities to talk to one another, the avenues through which feedback can be delivered are multiplied. Frequent communication allows potential problems to be identified before they manifest, just because people are kept in the loop. Many of the issues that occur in the workplace arise from lack of communication, the inadequacy of communication and the tools of communication.
How to Request and Provide Feedback
Feedback is often not provided because it is not requested or it is requested too late in the process. Additionally, the methods for giving feedback are not intuitive and do not take advantage of how human beings communicate, i.e. spontaneously. Communicating regularly with stakeholder on the progress and problems of the work automatically creates room for feedback. What is the best way for a team to request feedback?
Make it Systematic: Sometimes we may forget to request feedback, but when it is built into our processes, it becomes far more comfortable. Ways to do these may be to include the request with every email and to remind customers at the end of every phone call.
Use Multiple Sources: Receiving feedback from multiple sources with different perspectives on the team’s work will provide more complete picture of its performance than when feedback comes from one source only.
Ask Questions: Sometimes feedback is not given because the request is so generalized that people cannot provide useful responses. But by asking specific questions, people are better able to provide feedback tangibly.
Be consistent: Requesting feedback regularly will improve the quality of responses received over time. Especially if previous concerns were adequately addressed.
Follow Up: Always follow up on sources of feedback by informing them of actions being taken to address the issues and asking them for additional feedback on the improvements made.
How the organization provides feedback is also important. Feedback doesn’t always have to be negative. Sometimes we think we only need to point out what is going wrong. That is natural because problems cost money to fix. But feedback must also be given when the team is doing its work well because it is saving and making the organization money.
Be Positive: Regardless of whether the content of feedback is negative or positive, feedback must always be delivered in a non-critical manner with the intention to help.
Address Behavior Not people: Negative feedback about people’s actions should stay focused on the fact, not on your perception of the individual.
Timely and Specific: Feedback must be specific. Feedback must be timely. Specific and timely feedback promotes accuracy in addressing feedback.
Understand The Team: In providing feedback, it is crucial for the organization to have a full grasp of whatever constraints the team might have. If there are deficiencies in its work that are the result of a lack of capacity, then feedback will not solve it. What might make a difference is training or additional manpower.
Clarity of Goals: The organization must ensure that the team fully understands its objectives. And as the organization’s goals change, it must carry the team along, providing what additional skills, tools and information required to meet the new objectives.
In the light of organizations’ need to stay profitable by making the most use of all resources at their disposal, it is critical for the team and the organization to maintain adequate systems for requesting, providing and acting on feedback. Beyond its internal mechanisms for monitoring performance, a team has to be in touch with internal customers, not just within the same geography but in other branches of the organization and from regions of the world. While doing this, it must also stay in touch with the concerns of other stakeholders outside the organization, namely, customers.
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