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Why does “How you give feedback” sucks? and what to do about it from an experienced Scrum Master?


Why is giving feedback important?

In agile, we talk about “Inspect and Adapt”.

When we inspect an increment or an artefact, the output is feedback. In Agile, we talk about shortening the “Feedback loop”. It is the feedback that we have received that we adapt to.

However, the irony is that I have found most of the people with whom I have worked or coached unable to deliver feedback effectively.

What is wrong with “How you are currently giving feedback.”

The way people give feedback generally is of no use to the person receiving it.

The feedback received is either exaggerated or too general. People also use labels or pass judgement while giving feedback. Also, the feedback doesn’t specify any specific items for the receiver to action.

Even worse, I have seen the above for both constructive and positive feedback.

What points should you be taking into account while giving feedback?

Giving effective feedback requires preparation.

You must always be sure about what to say while giving feedback. Instead of using labels or judgements, describe the behaviour that you have observed. Be exact and use facts while describing the behaviour.

To help you formulate effective feedback, allow me to introduce a model to articulate feedback.

 SBI Model – How to give feedback which is compelling and actionable

Before we get into the details of the model, let us remind ourselves that feedback differs from criticism or praise.

For feedback to be effective, it has to be timely and specific; be based on observations, and non-judgemental. SBI Model inherently addresses all these parts. Let us now talk about how you give feedback using this model.

Step 1. Ask permission to give feedback.

Step 2. S – Situation: Describe the situation that happened. As mentioned above, be specific while describing the scenario.

Step 3. B – Behaviour: Describe the behaviour that you observed. Again make sure that you are describing the behaviour. Be sure that you are sharing an observation and not your interpretation.

A good test to know whether you are sharing an observation or your interpretation is if you can verify it or not. Observation is like a fact that can be checked.

Step 4. I – Impact: Describe the impact the person’s behaviour had on you.

Let’s now look at some examples of giving feedback using the SBI Model.

Examples of Giving feedback using the SBI Model


Example of how to give Positive Feedback.

Before: “I liked how you organized the tasks.”

Using SBI: Situation – “This is regarding the presentation of the plan that you did this afternoon”. Behaviour – “I observed you have organized the tasks in small groups.” Impact – “It conveyed the scope very well and made it obvious how we would like to execute them.

 Example of how to give Constructive Feedback.

Before: “That orange background on your presentation is awful.”

Using SBI: Situation – “This is regarding the presentation you gave in the monthly project review today.” Behaviour – “I observed you have kept orange background on your slides.” Impact – “It made looking a the slides and reading the text very difficult as the colour was too sharp on my eyes.”

In this case, you can also use a follow-up action item. For example – “You can consider using a neutral colour for the background of your slides which will help the audience be more engaged.”

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