And now is my turn to explain why I'm not a Feedback Sandwich fan. Keep on reading to find out why.
IntroductionAlison's guest post pictures pretty well how this method to provide feedback works, so you can check it if you haven't come across it yet. And curious enough, there's this article on Harvard Business Review The "Sandwich Approach" Undermines Your Feedback by Roger Schwarz (published shortly after Alison posted hers) where he explains why he's firmly against it.
My perspective is a bit different, I just think there are not that many opportunities to make this sandwich, but let me start from the beginning. I've written here before about feedback, you can check all the details about the ideal setting on "How to give feedback". But there are a couple of ideas there that I want to explore a bit further here.
One issue ruleThe idea is counter-intuitive, but the fact is that when you have a project going wrong because of several root causes you should address one issue at a time, starting with the one that's causing the most damage. It's tempting to go all in and solve all the problems in the project simultaneously, thinking maybe the project will get on track faster. But that simply doesn't happen, either because of lack of focus on paying attention to different things at the same time or because it's not that productive to go with the same energy after issues that are causing damages with different sizes.
The same applies to feedback. If you have a team member that you really want to perform better, identify all the problems, their causes and check to see what's impacting your team member the most. Now that's the one issue you want to take care of in the first place. And once you've done that, repeat the process again and again until you're both satisfied.
Give timely feedbackThere's no use of slapping your kid 2 weeks after he broke your favorite smoking pipe that belonged to your grandfather. But you may have a chance of making your point if you slap him immediately after he broke your pipe.
The same goes for feedback. If you write down everything your team members do well (and not so well) to discuss with them in the end of project review, you will fall short because:
- The project has ended, so if your team members are going to perform better because of your feedback, it will be on their next project - no good for you or your project
- When you raise the issues, it will be hard for you and your team member to remember the issue, it's context and the why behind the issue. So you'll have to put an extra effort to get, at best, the same result
When to use the Feedback SandwichIf you're with me on these two (One issue rule and Give timely feedback), you'll see why it's so difficult to get an opportunity to use the sandwich feedback. You'd have to be in the following scenario:
- you are tackling one issue with your team,
- someone in your team did a couple of things really well related to this issue you're tackling,
- that same team member messed up something also related to this issue, and
- all these happened recently, like in "this morning" recently
And what about the benefits?Alison says that the Feedback Sandwich leaves employees hungry to work harder. I buy that but the truth is that this should happen every time you give feedback, with or without a sandwich. So what else would you get from putting feedback in a sandwich?
ConclusionIt's far more important that you do provide feedback (both positive and corrective) in:
- timely fashion
- focusing on the one thing that you really want to get better at
And finally I'd like to thank Alison for providing the chance for a discussion where we both exposed our reasons supporting (or not) the Feedback Sandwich. I hope it proves useful to everyone as for me it just feels good to discuss any topic beyond the need to prove the other wrong.
Image from http://airparktoastmaster.wordpress.com
Posted by Luis Seabra Coelho