Feedback you can't ignore

Thanks for the feedback

Since under taking an AltMBA, I’ve really shifted my perspective on how crucial good feedback can be. Coming from a freelancing background it’s not something I’ve honed well and the course really opened my eyes.

It was only this week I connected the thoughts on feedback in the AltMBA with Randy Pausch’s lecture.

Totally mathematical

Every two weeks we get peer feedback. We put that all into a big spreadsheet and at the end of the semester, you had three teammates per project, five projects, that’s 15 data points, that’s statistically valid. And you get a bar chart telling you on a ranking of how easy you are to work with, where you stacked up against your peers. 1

Two things really stuck with me, one how low the bar is for statistical significance. 15 points! The other was that using a really simple survey a professor was able to make collaboration mathematical.

No magic bullets, but metrics aren’t magic either

The danger is that this becomes a mechanical thing. Where we reduce feedback to numbers and start heavily surveying everyone on every attribute whilst also reducing the need for managers to actually manage. That’s not the takeaway here. Instead I found it interesting that ideas in tandem with ideas like “what you measure matters” and alike. Often metrics are challenged because truly meaningful concepts are often harder to measure. This gives me hope that it might be more possible to measure more effectively than it can first appear.

Boy that’s hard feedback to ignore. Some still managed. 1

No matter how good the feedback, this is not a magic bullet. Even an incredibly inspiring figure like Randy couldn’t get traction with everyone. While this doesn’t let managers off the hook (he did really well with most people) it does help avoid a pursuit of perfection when evaluating.

Use sparingly

My thinking on feedback frequency. I found it interesting that it was hinting that the feedback was only presented back once per semester. That’s only 2-3 times a year. Still, this rightly puts annual reviews to shame as a cadence.

A call to action

For the most part, people looked at that [feedback] and went, wow, I’ve got to take it up a notch. I better start thinking about what I’m saying to people in these meetings. And that is the best gift an educator can give is to get somebody to become self reflective. 1

I’m feeling really challenged to look afresh at feedback, how I look to generate it and how I can give it to others. I’m planning to dig into 360° feedback, and see if I can blend some maths with some AltMBA style empathy and find something meaningful. I know my team deserves more from me here. I know this because they gave me feedback.


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