Forget everything you know about agile, about any methods, about any kind of tool you’ve mastered. If there’s only one thing you should do, it has to be this: ask for feedback.
It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it. If you don’t stop and ask the people you work with for feedback, you’ll never know exactly how bad you did until its too late.
It’s not complicated to get feedback, but it can be hard on you. Here is one way to do it.
First of all, you find a person who can provide you with some feedback. It helps if this is a person you trust. To this person, you present your desire for learning about how you’re doing, and ask if that person is willing to give you some feedback. If the answer is yes, you make sure you sit down in a comfortable environment where you both feel safe and relaxed. Then you ask for feedback on how you’re doing with something.
You could word it like this: “How do you think I’m doing when it comes to the TPS reports?” Then you sit silent and wait. And wait. You will always get feedback, even if the person you’re asking says nothing at all.
When you get the feedback, you might be tempted to think that you’re both done. You’re not. You might be tempted to blurt out a defense, because what you’ve just been told seems so offensive. Don’t. Instead, when you’ve heard what the other person thinks, stay silent. Think. Think about what that feedback might mean. Quietly formulate your interpretation of what that feedback really means, then tell it to the other person and ask if your interpretation is correct. Then go quiet again.
Either the person will say that your interpretation is correct, in which case you can say you’ve received the feedback. Or the other person will correct your interpretation. If this happens, you listen and think some more. Then you present your interpretation of the feedback again, this time incorporating the corrections you just received. Then you listen again, and repeat the process until your feedback giver tells you that you’ve understood things correctly.
Note that even complete silence can be treated this way. Silence as a response to a direct question is a kind of feedback, which you can try to interpret. If you do, it becomes doubly important to check your interpretation with the other person, because it now comes solely from within your own head.
If this procedure seems cumbersome, that’s only because it is. It’s not as slow as it seems when its broken down like this, however. Communicating clearly is hard work. We almost always go wrong in some way when we try to communicate with someone else, and it’s often due to the fact that we think we’ve understood the other person, when in reality we haven’t.
Do I always do it like this? No, and neither will you. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ll do like this far too seldom. Sometimes, we simply lack the energy to go through all the work that’s needed to communicate well. For me, that means I’m least likely to get good feedback when I most need it. It’s at times like those that I get into trouble, and that’s why I have to keep reminding myself that feedback can be scary, but that’s just because I don’t ask for it often enough.
- Find a potential feedback giver
- Ask for help
- Find a suitable environment
- Ask: How am I doing [with regard to something specific]?
- Present your interpretation of the feedback.
- Repeat 5-7 until you get to hear you’ve understood correctly.