Giving Feedback in Async

Giving Feedback in Async

(This is the first of a two part series on Asynchronous Feedback that I wrote for Sumeet Moghe's fantastic Async Agile project)

One of the main reasons why Agile is so popular is that it incorporates feedback as early as possible. This results in higher quality and customer satisfaction. You can see this in action (at least in Thoughtworks) in the various ceremonies and rituals that we practice as part of Agile like volleyballs, showcases, retrospectives etc.

In the pre-pandemic world, we would share almost all feedback in a synchronous fashion; either in-person or over a call. In the new normal, however, collecting all feedback through synchronous communication needs a lot of planning and results delays. This is especially true with individuals located around the world, across different countries and timezones.

An alternative approach is to collect feedback asynchronously. Here are some points to remember when giving feedback to make it more effective.

1. Build safety

The most effective feedback happens when the receiver trusts the giver. That means investing time and effort in building stronger relationships first. While this may not be possible in every single case (for example, when relationships are new or developing), building this kind of trust makes the receiver feel safe. And once you've built this safety, it becomes much easier to share any feedback, in sync or async fashion, as the receiver knows that it comes from a place of care. If you want to learn more about building safety, Crucial Conversations is a great place to start.

2. Make it detailed

In the new normal, writing clearly and concisely is effectively a superpower. At the risk of seeming verbose, add any relevant information that you think might help you communicate the feedback effectively. This is especially more important when you have constructive feedback to share.

3. Make it timely

Giving feedback in a timely manner is important even when collecting feedback synchronously. This is because we tend to forget details as time passes on. But it acquires a greater importance when working in a post pandemic world because of how the virus and the lockdown has affected our memories. So if you have feedback, remember to send it as soon as you can.

4. Be objective

If you are giving feedback to an individual about their work and performance, following the situation, behaviour and impact (SBI) model works wonders. Follow this approach both when you’re sharing praise or criticism. Refrain from using words that sound judgemental as you may not have the full context of why people behave the way they do.

5. Proofread

Avoid sending the feedback immediately after writing it. Read it a few times to check if you run the risk that the receiver will misunderstand you. Where necessary, add more details.

6. Clarify

If the receiver requests you for more details, provide them. This is especially relevant when you have constructive feedback. If required, set up a meeting and discuss it in-person or on a call. Here’s a golden rule for written communication - don't write something in an email that you won't say on a call/in person.

All this aside, remember that feedback is all about the giver's perspective. There could be a lot of context that you may not know. Sometimes your feedback may not be relevant to the receiver so don't expect them to take action every time you give feedback.

I had originally planned on writing a single article about giving and receiving feedback asynchronously but felt it would be easier to process them separately. Therefore I'll follow up this post with another article with my learnings on receiving feedback asynchronously and the mindset and changes associated with it.

The professional world has changed dramatically in the last two years and so have our processes and practices. I hope the above points help you in giving feedback asynchronously as they have helped me. Let me know your experiences using these.

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