The Feedback Loop
- October 26, 2016
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At BP3 one of the core tenets of our approach to developing our team is to provide feedback – early and often – operating under the theory that a short feedback loop is much more useful than getting feedback more formally much later. We learn from feedback – good news or bad news. The shorter the loop, the faster the learning can happen. I believe this is one of the reasons our team members develop quickly into fantastic consultants, for example.
Feedback at BP3 doesn’t always come in a formal setting or framework. And like any other company, we don’t always live up to our ideals on timeliness or utility of that feedback. But it is a core value to try.
One key element is that peer feedback is not only allowed, it is encouraged and expected. It may be the riskiest part of our culture, but it is the most valuable part. When peer feedback works well, everyone greatly accelerates the rate at which they can learn. For senior members of our team it can be a bit surprising to get peer feedback from a more junior member of the team, or someone that isn’t in their immediate reporting chain. But people get accustomed to it and value it.
Another key element to making feedback useful is to take compensation out of the conversation. Taking compensation out of the feedback loop helps make sure that our ears and minds are open to hear the feedback. We’re not thinking ahead to the financial outcome, or reflecting on the financial news, we’re focused on the feedback – listening and engaged. And likely to remember and apply it. This approach strikes most of the people I talk to outside of BP3 as surprising, but it works for us, and I believe it will for others. There is some evidence to support that point of view, considering this post from Rent the Runway’s CEO Jennifer Hyman:
At Rent the Runway, as we’ve thought about how to grow, the big unlock was that we have to improve the ways we give and receive candid feedback. Real-time feedback and coaching promotes learning. When feedback is connected to compensation, feedback is muted, distorted and given less frequently. Our goal is to create a safe place where feedback is about learning and growing and not deducing someone’s contributions to a single rating or annual performance review.
At Rent the Runway, they eliminated bonuses. At BP3, we simply address bonuses independent of feedback. There’s more than one right answer, depending on your culture.
Judging by conversations with other companies at the Great Place to Work conference, these points of view that I used to consider somewhat contrarian, are becoming more accepted. It’s a good thing.