Feedback as a Service
Understanding the real power of feedback from a developer point of view
Every day we interact with other humans to live, work, love, buy, train and have fun.
It means that somehow we are part of daily 1-to-1 and 1-to-many relationships.
Especially during working hours, we are transferring knowledge, ideas, comments with our colleagues.
Considering that our brains are connected by interfaces (e.g. ears and eyes), there’s a continuous process of communication between neurons that belong to at least two different people (it changes a bit 😊 if we are interacting with an AI, but the key concept is the same).
I’m using some IT-like terms not because I am a web developer, but because I’d like to let you understand that we can learn from computers when it comes to communication.
Humans invented computers and the Internet to process, save and transfer data — some useful parts of information.
Now it’s time to apply the basics of computer-interactions in our life.
“… why?” — you could think.
I’ll give you another question to answer your doubt: “how many times did you struggle with the grey areas of communication?”.
Humans have always used different types of communication to explain the simplest and the most difficult things.
But humans have a little problem: sometimes we fail to have an efficient interaction.
Hey, it’s normal to be wrong and to misunderstand something.
Don’t get me wrong 😊.
What I’m saying is that it’s possibile to learn how to have a better and more efficient communication with other humans.
As parents can learn a lot from their children, we can improve ourselves by studying how machines interact (with each other and with humans).
If you are a developer like me, you know that the compilers or the browsers talk to you when you are writing some code for your software or web app. They are giving you — as soon as you hit Save (or when the autosave does its job…) — a clear and rapid feedback.
Probably the best example is coming from the famous 3-way handshake:
- the client sends the SYN message to the server;
- the server replies to the client with the SYN+ACK message;
- the client replies with an ACK message.
No, I don’t want to bother you with TCP connections, instead I want you to observe that an efficient communication is based on feedbacks.
We could say that computers are able to talk to each other (and to us) and what really is behind this talking is just a series of steps.
Each step and each action requires a kind of feedback.
What if we try to use the power of feedback in our daily life, especially in the working environment?
Trust me, it’s not so obvious as you could think.
If it’s true that each step requires a feedback, we have to define what really is feedback.
Feedback is the art of giving a helpful truth.
Feedback is not a passive reply, but it’s an active statement.
Feedback is what can save us from losing time, money and patience.
The following is an example of a bad conversation at work:
- developer A: “hey, I’ve developed this piece of code [pointing to the screen], check it out later in the repo”
- developer B: “ok, later I will have a look”
Communication is happening, but:
- there are no details;
- there is no feedback (just a passive reply).
As you can imagine — and faced many times at work — developer B will probably forget the promised task.
Even a simple conversation can lead to misunderstandings if you do not think about how you communicate.
Let’s try to have a correct conversation, following some steps and introducing the feedback factor:
- developer A: “hey, I have developed the feature [insert here details about the completed task] and I’ve just pushed it into the branch [specify the branch name] of the repo [specify the repo name]. When can you have a look at it?”;
- developer B: “Fab! I’m working on my last two daily tasks, I’ll read your code as soon as I finish them”;
- developer A: “Thank you, could you please give me a feedback about [insert here something specific] of my code?”;
- developer B: “Sure, I’m writing here on my notes the details so that I do not forget!”.
Yes, the communication is a bit longer, but you can notice that:
- developer A has given a lot of details, forcing developer B to consider the request as important (so important that it’s necessary to write down the details…);
- developer A is asking for a specific feedback, so developer B now has a moral duty (give back something valuable to developer A).
Like in a pinball game, the flippers are the two people communicating and the ball is the feedback: the more feedback bounces, the more score increases.
Now you understand the real power of feedback.
I’ve elaborated the fancy definition of Feedback as a Service: let the feedback work for you, serving your interests and goals.
And, as any service, first you need to turn it on!
I’m closing this article with some quotes/concepts coming from the chapter The Art of Feedback of her book that inspired me:
When you do have critical feedback to share, approach it with a sense of curiosity and an honest desire to understand your report’s perspective. One simple way to this is to state your point directly and then follow up with, “Does this feedback resonate with you? Why or why not?”
How do you ensure that your feedback can be acted upon? Remember these 3 tips:
* Make your feedback as specific as possible
* Clarify what success looks and feels like
* Suggest next steps
“Feedback is a gift”. It costs time and effort to share, but when we have it, we’re better off. So let’s give it generously.