What Feedforward Is and Why Companies Should Apply It

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Feedforward, a concept introduced by business educator and coach Marshall Goldsmith, is rapidly gaining traction, and for good reason. Properly used, feedforward can help create a better workplace by aiding individuals in moving beyond the invisible barriers that hinder their productivity and performance.

Read more: How to Build a Positive Workplace Environment

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What is Feedforward?

Simply put, feedforward focuses on future-oriented solutions. When we give feedforward, we focus on a person’s future development rather than grading and judging their past performance.

For example: when anyone comes to you for an advice on something, focus on suggesting them potential solutions for their problems without commenting on their behaviors that led to that problem.

Feedforward vs Feedback

Feedforward

Feedback

  • Creates momentum for change
  • Solutions focused, expansion of possibilities
  • Is particular
  • Does not involve a person’s critic
  • Does not imply judgement
  • Reinforces the possibility of change
  • Is faster and more efficient
  • Is static
  • Necessitates awareness of what has occurred, points out problem
  • Is more general
  • Can be affected by personal prejudice/ subjective opinion
  • May imply judgment
  • May reinforces the mistake/ failure
  • Is less efficient and could be time-consuming

The challenge with feedback is that it may concentrate more on past actions, and with evaluation focusing on the mistake/ weakness of those actions.

People giving feedback may not pay much attention as they should on proposing objective and potential solutions for future improvement. Feedforward, on the other hand, allows people to concentrate more on giving potential/ practical and objective advice that is helpful for actual improvement in the future.

Read more: 3 Common Employee Development Challenges and How to Overcome Them

For example:

Instead of insisting on how their customer service abilities have been less than effective in the past (feedback) and holding on to that to critique employees, an employer may give their employees suggestions, recommendations, and encouragement on how to handle customer concerns more effectively in the future (feedforward).

The Benefits of Feedforward

Implementing a feedforward communication strategy has a number of clear advantages in a wide range of personal and professional circumstances.

  • Feedforward focuses on the future and improvement, steers clear of comments on previous behaviours or outcomes that cannot be changed.
  • Feedforward is behavioural or is about specific actions rather than general/ unfocused ideas.
  • Feedforward is empowering since it simply provides optional routes for advancement or self-development.
  • Feed forward is courteous and aids in the reinforcement of healthy group dynamics and collaborative connections between people.
  • Feed forward is participatory because it gives all affected people actual tools to help solve potentially recurring bad situations.
  • Feed forward aids in conflict resolution by repositioning connections in a positive and supportive light.
  • Feedforward is not judgmental, making the recipient more comfortable when receiving advice.

Formulating feedforward advice may not be easy in the first place. We are only human, and we are bound to have our personal subjective opinions and judgments interfere with the process of giving other people recommendations.

However, as we apply feedforward more regularly in workplaces and social life, we will soon get used to it and be more comfortable in using it. Practicing feedforward may help us become more concentrated on future solutions and improvement rather than focusing on past problems. It helps us develop a habit of looking forward instead of backward.

Read more: Search Inside Yourself – A Key to Success from Google

When the habit of feeding forward is well established in teams across the organisation, it can become a shared or cultural practice in the real sense of the term.

When current employees help model this practice to new members, the constructive advantages of the process become collective and multiplied.

This culturally ingrained behavioural feature contributes to the genuine meaning of being solution-focused, constructive, action-oriented, future-oriented, proactive, and responsible in organisational cultures.

When feedforward has been widely applied, it is fair to say that the company has successfully developed a true coaching, constructive, and positive culture.

Practicing Feedforward

You can practice giving feedforward with another person, who could be a close friend, family member, or a colleague, anyone may work. One of you may Initiate a feedforward loop. Both participants will have the opportunity to give and receive a feedforward assessment.

Suggested instruction of practicing feedforward:

1. DESCRIBE YOUR GOAL in short and straightforward terms. For instance, “I want to finish more tasks every week.

2. SEEK SUGGESTIONS. Your partner will provide helpful advice on how to reach your aim. There should be no mentioning of the past; the emphasis should be on making future progress. For instance, “One idea to finish more tasks every week is to have a checklist.

3. LISTEN CAREFULLY. Listen to the advice, but avoid becoming a belligerent listener. Note those suggestions down, and only response with positive statements, such as “That is an excellent idea.

4. SAY THANK YOU. Reflect on the suggestions only. Arguments are not allowed.

5. SWITCH ROLES. Repeat the process, this time with your partner stating their goal and you providing them feedforward.

With the strengths and gains of Feedforward, let’s learn to apply it in our daily work and social life starting NOW!

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