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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Giving Good and Constructive Feedback

One of the ways to improve any system or process is to get it reviewed by experts and other relevant folks. It is important to provide “quality” feedback should one be assigned the responsibility of performing the review.

I think giving good and constructive feedback can go a long way in helping improve the system or process. In fact giving feedback is as much an art as it is a science. How to give good and constructive feedback? Here are some points to consider which might be helpful:

Know the Background and Context of the Area being Reviewed

Many a time reviewers don’t know or understand the background and context. This might be due to genuine lack of knowledge or the reviewer carrying prejudiced notions. It is helpful for reviewers to spend some time to acquire broad understanding of the concerned area(s).

Do Your Homework before the Review Discussion

Many a time reviewers do the review during the review meeting. This not only slows down the pace of the review meeting but also shows the lack of interest by the reviewer. It is helpful for reviewers to spend some time prior to the discussion to run through the items sent for review and identify the opportunities for improvement.

Get Clarifications before the Review Discussion and, if Appropriate, Share Observations in Advance

In case certain clarifications are required they can be sought prior to the review discussion. This can not only help save time during the review but also ensure that another round of discussion is not needed.  It is also a good practice, if appropriate, to share the review observations in advance.

Maintain Positive Outlook and Communicate Observations in a Constructive Way

How we say something is equally important as what we say. Being positive and constructive in sharing the feedback is helpful to ensure other reviewer(s) and also the author(s) don’t get defensive. The review is not to be seen as a forum to score a point but to contribute in improving the system or process under consideration.

Don’t Shy Away from being the Lone Voice of Dissent

At times one lone voice of dissent can get drowned if all others agree on something.  A good reviewer would facilitate the discussion towards a logical conclusion and consent with others but will also insist that the dissents are discussed at some length and duly recorded.

Don’t Maintain Hard Positions

Reviewers should be open to others viewpoints and thoughts and ready to give up their position if that helps the discussion to progress towards a more meaningful conclusion. Positions don’t matter, the end outcome does.

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