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Why Feedback Loops Are Important

Whether it’s in our professional or personal lives, feedback can be one of those things that is important, but also can be very difficult to hear, process, and ultimately act on.

When working on any project of any type, there are multiple phases that need to happen. In some cases, these are well documented, formalized process that happen. And other times they are “looser” or ad-hoc, but they still happen whether we like it or not. The issue is when we try to ignore them and don’t accept the data that we are being given.

Everything from planning a home improvement to designing and executing a website goes through a similar feedback process. It’s important to recognize what phase you are currently in and take appropriate action for that phase.

These are the stages of almost any project:

  • Kickoff

  • Design

  • Execution

  • Testing/Feedback

  • Modifying

  • Completion

Let’s think about this in terms of a Do It Yourself home improvement project. Maybe it’s time to remodel that old out dated kitchen that you’ve been meaning to re-do for 10 years now. There’s that first day when you decide to make it happen. Then there’s the phase of talking through if you should paint the existing cabinets or buy new ones. What color pallet should we use? Should we tear down that wall and go with an open concept or leave it up? And oh gosh, what tile would we use for the back splash (maybe this kitchen thing was a bad idea!)

You persevere and make all the critical decisions, make a trip to your local home improvement store and now all the sudden you’re in the execution phase of things. This is when the feedback loop becomes important because ultimately there are going to be flaws in your design. The tile doesn’t fit right in the space, or the colors don’t look so hot with the lighting you have so you need to replace the lights. This is also a time when if you’re the designer you have to be able to accept these hiccups and roll with them and learn from them.

Just like with the kitchen example, anytime you get into web development or custom application development, there will be the need for some change to the original design. No matter how well laid the plans are, there will be technical issues, design issues, or just general hiccups. This is where it’s important to have a good feedback loop between the client and the designer/developer. Requirement gathering is a collaborative exercise but if the execution is completed by the designer in a vacuum it is a recipe for disaster. It’s not a solid way to operate your home improvement project and isn’t the way to operate your development project.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of being agile in your business. And this is a perfect example of being agile in your day to day operations and how you interact with clients. There are always twists and turns in even the best laid plans, so how you go with the flow and adapt is important.

Those Execution, Feedback and Modifying stages often run together. And the biggest challenge here is rolling with the changes, but also keeping things reasonable and reeled in. This is the area where things tend to “go off the rails”. In your kitchen you start getting excited as you see the work progress, and how great would it be to add some recessed lights, and then new flooring, and while we’re at it let’s get new appliances and build a breakfast bar. None of those were in the original scope, but it’s challenging to contain the excitement as you see progress. It’s no different in a business environment, and this is where it’s imperative to refer to that original design and make the changes as needs, so long as the fit within the overall scope. It can be a tightrope at times but is an important one to balance.

At the end though, you’ll be glad that you created an honest and open way for feedback to be communicated and will ensure success.

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