Archive for March, 2008
In my continuing series about human resource issues, I’ve decided its time to tackle the issue of Feedback.
If any issue in managing people has lip-service paid to it, it is feedback. In my lightly seasoned opinion feedback should be:
Lets tear these apart.
All too often feedback is reserved for the employee performance review. While this is an important and necessary time to provide feedback, at many companies this is a yearly process. From an employer’s perspective yearly means that you’ve potentially paid an employee for over 2,000 hours of work that had if they received quicker feedback they could’ve been more productive. From an employee’s perspective a year is a significant time to let bad habits sink in, that just increases the effort needed to correct them.
I propose that a formal feedback system be utilized at 1 week of employment, 3 weeks of employment, 6 weeks of employment, 3 months (12 weeks) of employment, 6 months of employment, and every 3 months thereafter. Mind you I’m not proposing some elaborate twenty page form to fill out, but something that a supervisor could finish in five or ten minutes for an employee. This could be passed to the employee, and then discussed after both supervisor and employee have had time to think about it.
Now any formal feedback system should never preclude or be detrimental to informal unscheduled feedback. Often, this is as if not more important than scheduled formal feedback.
Consistency of feedback has two components.
Firstly, feedback must be internally consistent in content between all the different times feedback is given. (e.g. Don’t say you should turn left more often one time, then say you should turn right more often the next time. If when giving feedback you need to correct an overcorrection, note that the person you’ve given feedback has overcorrected and needs to readjust.)
Secondly, the time periods over which feedback is given should be consistent. If you noted in my suggested scale above I suggest an essentially logarithmic scale to providing feedback, maxing out at once every three months. Mind you this is no more frequent than shareholders expect to receive reports on the company. Quarterly is a good time to do this.
The feedback that you give should either reinforce actions that are already being taken, or correct actions that need to be changed.
The best example I have of this is from my theatre experience. The worst feedback someone could give me after a show was “It was good.” Feedback like this drove me absolutely batty! Why did it drive me batty? Because I couldn’t take action from it. When someone told me a play was good, it didn’t tell me what I did good, nor what I could’ve done better.
Feedback should suggest what behavior is expected in the future, and give example actions to make that behavior happen.
I can’t do much to tear this one apart. But simply be genuine in all feedback you give. Sugarcoating feedback can be more detrimental than not giving feedback at all. The most effective feedback I have received is that which struck me hard between the eyes. I’ve found the feedback that I most needed was delivered raw and unsugarcoated. If it is worth saying, it is worth saying directly.
There are two components to the bidirectional nature of feedback. The first component is who initiates feedback. Feedback should both be pushed to the appropriate person when necessary and it should be solicited when it is needed from someone else. This means that you have both the responsibility to ask for feedback when you need it, and to give feedback when you think it is needed.
The second component to the bidirectional nature of feedback is that it should go both up and down the chain of reporting. (The usual “chain of command” metaphor that is used is an outdated and inappropriate military concept that should apply less and less to non-military organizations.) Supervisors have a responsibility to give feedback to their subordinates, and subordinates have a responsibility to give feedback to their supervisors.
Of course it is definitely difficult for subordinates to give feedback to their supervisors, but the best way to address this is for supervisors to constantly solicit feedback and to leave the door open for feedback. This dually important as if a supervisor is open to receiving feedback, more often their subordinates will be more willing to receive feedback.
Feedback is the lifeblood of driving performance in an organization. One need look no further than Pavlov’s experiments to discover the base psychology that is at work when giving feedback.
I want to take a look at my customer interaction with Delta airline’s data. I surmise it’ll be enlightening.
I went to meet a friend at SeaTac airport on Monday evening. He was flying in on Delta Flight 747. (Nice nod to Boeing, Delta.) His plane was supposed to land at around 6:20 PM PST.
Wanting to curse him, I had signed up for text message alerts from Delta on their website. His plane was actually a bit early getting in from Boston to Cincinnati (the airport is actually in Kentucky, but that is a different story.) and it departed Cincinnati a bit early as well.
I get my first update at 1:59 PM PST, his flight is a minute late.
A minute later, I get a second update, his flight is still a minute late.
Nineteen minutes later, I get an update this his flight is now three minutes early.
At 3:49 PM PST, I get a notice that his flight is now one minute early.
At 5:20 PM PST, I get a call from my friend that the “…the pilot made a decision to reroute us to Bozeman, Montana. We have subsequently landed in Bozeman, Montana. The plane has not turned into a fireball of twisted metal and flesh like it could have, I guess, if its a fuel leak … I guess we’re going to find out if we’re gonna switch planes or whats gonna happen. … I don’t know how much of a delay its gonna be, I’m gonna guess somewhere between 40 minutes and an hour…”
At 6:09 PM PST, I get a notice that his flight is one minute early, and is still arriving at SeaTac, Gate A6.
Being an acculturated seattlite I took the bus to the airport and was boarding just around 5:30, I arrived to the airport around 6:10 or so and after a bit of moseying around and looking at an Eaglerock airplane and a replica of the Rutan Voyager. A couple of minutes after this I mosey over to the empty Delta airlines ticket counter and ask for an update on the flight. They tell me the new planned arrival time is 10:30 PM PST. At this point I surmise the plane my friend came in on is toast for the evening, and Delta is hauling in a replacement from Salt Lake City, Utah, their nearest hub.
At 7:33 PM PST, having left the airport, I call the airline for an update. The automated system, upon hearing that I’m looking for information on the current day’s bastard child, flight 747, plops me into a queue for a human in the Philippines or somewhere. The lady I reach has no more information than what I’ve already gathered, and as I recall doesn’t even mention anything about Bozeman until I bring it up.
Having reached home around 10:00 PM or so I use my fun little tools and unearth that the plane that is now picking my friend up has been christened Flight 9907, a flight number that is reserved for repositioning airplanes. As I guessed the plane was on its way from Salt Lake.
At 11:54 PM PST, the last time I ask for information from the airline, I’m at the airport’s cell phone lot. I get the same run around from the lovely automated system that I did at 7:33, and the flight is still on-time for its new schedule of 12:10 AM.
So the bottom line: Delta’s automated systems told me next to nothing useful and in one case even gave me completely false information. Delta’s people gave me reasonably accurate information, although they didn’t volunteer much. If I had provided this level of information when I worked in the fruit business, my customer would’ve been talking to my supervisor faster than you can slip on a banana.
The Cranky Flier wasn’t kidding when he said that “The flight information business is a terrible one. … I’d like to see an airline take a more open approach.”
Without knowing all of the data running around and the potential scenarios, I cannot make too much of a recommendation, but I did have one that came to mind.
In an instance like this where there is a diversion instead of being popped over to a representative who knows very little about what is actually going on it would be helpful to have a recorded announcement by the operations folks or the customer service folks. In this instance it would’ve gone something like: “Delta Flight 747 was diverted to Bozeman, Montana for mechanical reasons. The airplane landed safely in Bozeman and all passengers are safely on the ground. An airplane has been dispatched from Salt Lake City to Bozeman to continue the passengers’ journey. The current estimated time of arrival into Seattle-Tacoma is currently 10:30 PM. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you would like to speak to a representative say representative…”
Two major benefits:
- It gives people waiting for passengers some actual information.
- It reduces a raft of phone calls to representatives, so it should be a cost savings.
There are significant potentials for extensions, including providing this in text format on the website, offering some type of subscriptions, and as available data to airline employee’s when they look up the flight within the reservation system.
Okay, so I’m glad that is out of my head. In other news I’m looking for employment, so if your organization needs simple solutions like this to complex problems and creative design of effective process flows, please drop me an email.
(This entry was lightly revised on March 14, 2008 at 2:36 AM EST, and again on March 21, 2008 at 12:13 PM, to correct a light revision error. Its a blog, not a wiki, so I don’t have the history of the changes. Relax.)
Mom and Dad,
I know we all have been on an interesting journey since I came out to both of you about ten years ago. I can’t even believe that that was ten years ago. I’m proud of the progress you both have made in accepting me and supporting me for who I am.
But, I’d like to ask you to make one more step. I’d like to ask you to take a stand against hate. I’ve heard, seen, read, and experienced all sorts of hate. I do not believe it is acceptable for a public figure, let alone an elected representative to engage in deliberate hateful speech. It provides justification for those who are angry for other reasons to commit injurious and lethal acts against people because of who their innate traits.
Earlier this month Sally Kern, an Oklahoma State Representative, made an appalling speech where among other things she equated GLBT equality with terrorism and toe cancer. You can hear the speech and sign an open letter at:
You an also watch Ellen DeGeneres’s classy response to this at:
Please sign the open letter and pass this on to everyone you know. I ask others for acceptance, but at minimum I demand tolerance.
Love your son,
For fairness this blog entry includes a spoiler for the first episode of the third season of Battlestar Galactica.
How can I condemn a suicide bomber?
At the end of the episode a resistance fighter blows himself up at an awards ceremony killing both cylons, the enemy, and the newly graduating class of the New Caprica Police Force, collaborators. Make no bones about it, this is terrorism plain and simple. Terrorism is just a political tool, nothing more, nothing less.
I’m also left wondering if Duck and Ty’s decision to kill the cylons and the recruits is evil. I know it is a justified act, but because it is justified is it absolved from being evil?
Is there such a thing as justified evil? I often wonder if the United States nuclear bombing of Japan in World War II was justified. In one way they were our enemy, and Japan dragged us into WWII through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But while the nuclear bomb was theorized in the physics community, and it may have been possible to deduce that production of a nuclear weapon was underway by the United States, I have trouble classifying its use as justified evil.
If the United States had made clear its intent to use a nuclear weapon against Japan, and perhaps demonstrated its abilities for the world, and Japan chose to continue fighting, I believe that the use of a nuclear bomb on Japan would have been justified. But using a radically new weapon on your enemy in a situation where you could have won through conventional warfare? I cannot and will not call that justified.
Going partially back to the fictional world of Battlestar Galatica.
Duck’s suicide bombing, I want to call it justified. But in doing so I would also call suicide bombers against Israel, the United States occupation in Iraq, and the bombing of the Twin Towers on September 11 justified.