What is Feedforward?
Feedforward, a concept put forth by coach Marshall Goldsmith, focuses on developing communication solutions aimed at the future. This training and communication technology has been in use since the early 1990s. However, it has only recently gained much-needed traction. Feedforward definition revolves around creating a positive environment with a futuristic outlook in mind.
If used well, the feedforward technique can create a healthy work environment for employees. It allows them to go past the negative feedback of the past and focus solely on improving their future. While the difference in definition might seem trivial, feedforward communication can make a monumental difference to the receiver.
Feedforward is a form of control that focuses on setting standards before starting the process. Moreover, it considers the people, materials, and other organizational resources.
Feedforward controls, or preventive controls, help in identifying the process, the problems and prevent any non-conformities in the standards even before the process starts.
One of the feedforward examples is helping organizations in their HR and selection process. An HR and Admin automation system will help identify potential candidates with the right skills by putting in place strict standards. This system allows you to collate candidate information in a centralized database, conduct assessment tests, background verifications, negotiate salary, and provide customized letters of employment.
Streamlining workflows and processes can help in enhancing employee engagement and boosting business success. One of the most common ways of going ahead with feedforward implementation is automating workflows.
When you customize dashboards by creating several feedforward features and approval systems, you invariably build-in quality, eliminate errors, and increase productivity. Moreover, every stakeholder to success – worker, manager, HR, and technical teams, is involved in the process.
The Fundamental Flaws of Feedback
The very nature of feedback is focusing on past events and performance. Since you can’t change past events, the takeaways from such feedback are very limited. Some of the reasons why we believe feedback brings inadequate and inefficient results are because,
It lays the focus on ratings and not on performance
In general, feedback is given based on past performances. And this rating focuses on what’s over rather than on what can be done in the future. It looks past the fundamental goal of feedback – providing impetus for improvement.
It inhibits creativity and control
We tend to bring out our defensive stance and shut ourselves down for improvement when we get negative feedback. We lose sight of our creativity, rationality, and control when this happens.
It encourages a limited view of our capabilities
When we are judged based on our past mistakes or errors, we develop a sense of helplessness because we cannot change the events. We tend to start pondering over our limitations rather than our capabilities.
Attributes of Feedforward Communication
Feedforward communication techniques are effective only when they have the following attributes.
Restores Self-worth and Talent
The main idea behind feedforward is to allow people to look at their performances positively and seek opportunities to establish their expertise. A few positive lines about our work, no doubt, has a trickle-down effect, but at a very minimal level. It simply reinforces known concepts about us rather than showing our capabilities in a new light. Feedforward lets us improve our performance by building on our self-worth and talent.
Enhances Growth Possibilities
Rather than simply showing the problems, it is crucial to allow the employees to brainstorm solutions. You could build on the answers provided by others rather than turning them down completely. Making small changes might provide a better solution and possibilities for learning.
Eliminates Errors in Process
When there is a standard set-in place even before the process starts, it eliminates several errors during the execution. Moreover, all the employees clearly understand the standard operating procedures. For example, you can make sure the rules, discounts, bid thresholds, and more standards are built into the system with a Procurement automation solution. Additionally, it is also possible to allow all team members to contribute their ideas to the process.
Provides Specific Strategies
When feedback is given to team members, it is usually done in large chunks – a lot of metrics are provided, several KPIs are measured at once. On the other hand, feedforward insists on picking specific strategies for the future. It is essential to focus on one thing and make it ongoing.
Aids in Locating the Problems
When negative feedback is given, it is offered sugar-coated, making it difficult for the receiver to discern the information. Moreover, when the negative feedback is shared with positive words-of-praise reinforcement, it takes away the value of constructive criticism.
Feedforward doesn’t stop at providing future-oriented feedback. It also encourages team members to look for optimum solutions together.
Redefines Group Dynamics
Feedforward changes the group dynamics and makes everyone in the system responsible for the success and accountable for their actions. Feedforward distributes it across the teams instead of putting the power of decisions in a single place.
For example, when you install a Finance workflow automation system, you can get all your client invoices streamlined by allowing several team members to generate client invoices throughout the month without delay and get them approved by all stakeholders on time. A parallel approval form comes in handy when multiple stakeholders get involved, such as, in approving invoices, leave requests, procurements, and more.
Focusses on Coaching and not Criticizing
Coaching aims to improve the person’s performance for the future and let them know where they went wrong and how they could have performed. Coaches tend to closely study their subject rather than just shooting off generic improvement tips. For managers, it is vital to use the mistakes and errors of the team members as a tool of learning using positive influencers. Delivers Instant Impact Sometimes feedback is so vague and talks about events in the distant past that it fails to cause any tangible impact on the receiver. If the input must be appreciated and acted upon, you should provide it practically and realistically.
When the employee feels only his negatives and shortcomings are up for discussion, they might be more reluctant to open to the feedback. On the contrary, feedforward talks about their positives, strengths, and skills, and so employees are likely to repeat positive behavior in the future.
Develops ‘next time’ ideas
Feedback criticizes the past, while feedforward is the path to a better future. Instead of providing statements like, ‘You spoke for way too long during the presentation. We lost track of what you were saying’ try ‘Next time, make sure you provide concise points and a couple of examples.’ The second statement is more likely to find takers and get instantly implemented.
Feedforward vs. Feedback– The Way Forward
|It is provided in isolation
||It is provided as a tool for change
|Offers information in large chunks at once
||It is targeted towards a specific strategy
|Doesn’t give ideas for future betterment and improvement
||Provides and encourages future-oriented ideas
|Always delivered in a vertical hierarchy model
||The group dynamics are more refined and streamlined
|The information reinforces what the receiver already knows
||Identifies positives of the employees
|Talks about the problems that have happened in the past
||Focuses on solutions and opportunities for growth
|It is subject to the prejudices and opinions of the giver
||The communication is not subject to the prejudices of the giver
|The receiver can feel that they are being judged
||Focuses on providing critical information in a non-judgmental manner
|It could lead to reinforcement of negatives and mistakes
||It is aimed at solutions for future improvement
|It could be a time-consuming process
||The entire process is efficient and faster as the information is not provided in isolation
How to Conduct Feedforward Communication Assessment?
Feedforward is a sort of a loop in which all the participants can receive and give feedback. It shifts the focus to performance and preventive maintenance rather than becoming a critique who is just too late to join the game. Remember these steps when performing a feedforward technique,
Describe your Goal in Definite terms
Describe your goals – in clear and precise terms. The goals should preferably be short-term, but it’s not necessary. The plans could be anything from, ‘I have to work for two hours extra every week,’ or ‘I have to make my presentations more informative and interactive.’ Either way, you should draw a roadmap to improvement before undertaking the tasks.
Seek Ideas and Suggestions for improvement
Once you have laid down the goals, your partner will provide suggestions and ideas for improvement. The focus of the entire process should be future-oriented. It wouldn’t be judgmental or make mention of the past performances. For instance, one idea to make the presentations more informative and interactive could be limiting the number of pages and asking open-ended questions during the presentation.
Pay Keen Attention to the Suggestions
It is time to focus all your attention on the suggestions provided by your partner. Encourage openness and clarity by giving positive feedback to the ideas. Takedown notes, ask questions, seek clarifications without bias.
Remember to thank the participants
Contemplate the suggestions and thank the participants for their time and effort. It is undoubtedly the right time to only show gratitude without being judgmental.
Once your partner lays down their points on the table, you should take on the mantle of the giver. Repeat the entire process by putting forth your feedforward solutions across the table.
While these were the steps you can take to implement the feedforward strategy, we believe it takes more than just this.
The reason is feedforward is not the latest fad to join the elite club of innovative measuring techniques that will fade out of public consciousness soon. Implementing feedforward – at both personal and professional levels- is as much about transforming the mindsets and bringing about a cultural change as it is about altering the feedback process. However, since it is a change that can impact most people positively, it is welcomed by all layers of management.
Before implementing this strategy in your organization, we believe you must focus on training and retraining your managers about its features and expectations. Read on to know how you should start the process and where you should be most careful.