July 10, 2023
Why Feedback Is Important
In a seminar given by author Richard "Doc" Palmer, he offered answers as to why feedback is important. While the seminar was attended by those associated with maintenance departments and the presentation related to work orders, his words can be used in so many fields.
Feedback needs to exist in so many situations. I'd like to present four benefits of feedback and tips to better give and take information. This subject is personal to me because I give and receive feedback in a couple of writing critique groups.
Benefits Of Feedback
This is an obvious point. Feedback from the supervisor on the job done keeps the worker doing the work motivated to continue to improve. Little tips and suggestions might make the next job more efficient. The same holds true if the feedback comes from the worker. While doing the job, areas for improvement were noticed, something the supervisor could institute the next time.
As for writing, the two purposes of critique groups are to support writers and for those writers to improve their craft. The feedback given contributes to a better next story. It's a rare writer that can grow and hone the craft without feedback from fellow writers and readers.
A lot of people have the mindset that "My way is the right way, the only way." For that person, at that time, sure. However, what if another way works—and works better—for someone else?
A person in the critique group often suggests writing a chapter from a different point of view or narrative. Might that chapter sound better? Just because I write a certain way does not mean it works for others. Mainly because that person's story is completely different, even if it's in the same genre. It's a wise person who can experiment with another way.
3. Methods change
Auto mechanics don't repair cars the same way as they did even twenty years ago. New tools, new software, and new inventions are helping to make work more efficient. Feedback offers opportunities to discuss those methods.
Here is where I'll bring in a point to be discussed later. A computerized maintenance management system. (CMMS). Yesterday a maintenance department relied on spreadsheets. Times change. Businesses evolve. Today, a CMMS is available to help streamline maintenance operations. New methods. New ideas.
For writing, take a look at how books were written thirty, forty, and seventy years ago. The style is remarkably different than how authors write today. An example is Zane Grey, the western author. Granted, he was paid by the word, but he'd spend pages describing the landscape whereas today's writers might use only a few paragraphs.
Some methods aren't accepted as easily today as they were yesterday. Feedback (critique) keeps everyone in the group informed on other "methods."
Efficiency and effectiveness. Those are the goals. Feedback offers areas to explore. Even small changes can reap huge benefits.
While I still use word processing, I'm more productive using a writing assistant program. I'm able to separate and arrange chapters easier than the cut/paste method in a word document. In writing, discussions present feedback on this program because others might find it useful.
Tips for better feedback
An obvious point. One person talks. In the writer groups, we try to adhere to the positive/critique/positive method. This is fine, but I read an article where this 'sandwich' method isn't the best unless the 'positive' is genuine. Too often the first is, "Oh, I really like this." Then the person hits hard with the critique. The ending is almost a repeat of the first.
Because of this, the 'praise' comes off as almost a throwaway. Instead of this "fluff," I try to cite the areas where I think the chapter works and where the writer shined. Only after I point out the positives do I move on to where it doesn't work for me
This method should be used in business. "Good job, Bob, now let me give you ten suggestions to do it better." This leaves Bob wondering if he really did well. The supervisor should give specific examples of where Bob is doing well, then make suggestions.
Another aspect to remember is this is feedback, critique, NOT criticism. In the groups, the comments are about the writing, not the writer.
A last area of this point is to not just point out errors but offer solutions. Saying, "This is wrong" and nothing else won't benefit anyone.
I've found the best way to receive critique is to ready my selection, then shut up. I don't speak unless asked a question. Perhaps, I'll need to clarify a sentence or tell how far into the story I'm in because the point is relevant to the answer. Otherwise, I don't "defend." If I say something along the lines of, "Well, I wanted to…" or "I meant to say…" then I've failed to convey the message in the writing.
Listening also lets me hear the entire critique because again, I'm not always right. I may have missed something useful.
The only exception is if the point made is blatantly incorrect. The person maybe missed an earlier chapter so didn't know X had happened. At this point, I can interject this fact.
The listening aspects are important in the professional setting. Talking over someone, overriding, interrupting, or defending actions only creates tension. Actively listen with an open mind, with no preconceptions.
3. Ask questions
If I don't understand a critique, I'll ask for clarification. I need to understand how or why something isn't working for this person or I may not understand the improvement suggested.
Ask questions of others. Someone else may present the same idea in a different way that comes through.
4. Discuss Options
Here's where I could speak during critique to discuss the solutions suggested. Maybe more will be presented. Often, the discussion sparks an idea, and my mind races with outlining the new material.
Between worker and supervisor, it's important to discuss options. Again, refer to the "I'm not always right" section. During discussions, points for and/or against might be brought up that either side hadn't considered. "We can't do this option because of this circumstance."
This point brings in a few others. One lesson a writer needs to learn early on is to "grow a thick skin." The story is someone's "baby" and to highlight flaws is tough to handle at times. But the goal is to improve.
However, I don't automatically accept everything. I know too many writers who make changes because someone says so. The problem is one person's change may conflict with another's. Also, the writer isn't considering the effect a change could have on the entire story. Too many automatic changes probably will result in a convoluted mess with little making sense.
I write copious notes. Then, when I take the time to do the rewrites, I review the critiques and decide their worth.
Once again, the feedback between supervisor and worker shouldn't be an automatic "I'll do this." Review the options and make the best choice.
6. Continued feedback
Once the rewrite or chapter change has been made, be sure to review it. Many authors bring back the revised chapter to judge the improvement.
There are two considerations to be aware of. The first is to know when to move on and write further into the story. Someone will offer improvements each time. If a person constantly rewrites, then the group never hears the rest of the story. Critiques of later chapters might provide a solution for the earlier parts.
The second point is that it’s a rare manuscript that is ever perfect, needing no improvements. Accept that this is the best and move on.
At work, review the suggestion to see if improvement was gained. Refine, discuss, do it, review again.
I mentioned this earlier. One beneficial feature of a quality system is the work order comments data fields for supervisors and workers to add details, further instructions, and feedback.
Feedback on the system itself should be discussed between employees. How can we use more of the features? Offer feedback to the CMMS vendor. Suggest improvements and enhancements. The request for something special could turn out to be customizable.
There are several answers to why feedback is important. For the most benefit, it must be given and received correctly. Otherwise, improvements are delayed, morale drops, and feedback becomes something to dread.
For feedback on a world-class CMMS visit the testimonials page at Mapcon Technologies. Then call 800-922-4336 to discuss how your maintenance operations could improve.