The importance of receiving feedback:

Do you remember the first time you drove a car?
I still remember my first time.
I was very intensely holding the steering wheel. I was only looking through the front windshield.
I was sure I did not move the steering wheel and yet the car moved from left to right.
When I made a correction move, I overshot and moved to the other side.
Last year I drove from Belgium to Bordeaux. I think that at some places I drove 100 kilometers without making correcting moves. At least that is what it felt like. In reality I think I made an incredible amount of micro changes. What has happened in the 20 years between my first ride and my ride to Bordeaux is that I enhanced my system of receiving  feedback and responding to it. Yes, baby steps again.
And every time I ride an unknown car, I have to adapt my system, actually sometimes when my car comes back from a service, it behaves different. Not much, but I feel it has changed and I adjust my driving style.

Now imagine that your front windshield is closed. And the only feedback to drive is your rearview mirror.
That means that the only thing you can see is behind you. Did I hit something along the way?
That is like only doing retrospectives (lessons-learned) as a post-mortem. The patient has died. They do a it to find who did it and to prevent future dead’s. I don’t like that kind of feedback. CSI might look nice on television, in real live I prefer check-ups to keep the patient alive.
Please take a pencil, a baseball bat or anything with that shape. In a moment I want you to:

  • put this post aside
  • put the pencil with its smallest part on the index finger of your main hand.
  • try to keep the pencil (or whatever object you have chosen) in balance.
  • while you do this, you keep track of the time.
  • come back to this post 🙂
  • write your time in the comments and continue reading.

Ok, now it’s time to do it.
How did this go? Was it easy?
Now I want you to do the same with your eyes closed.
How did this go? Did you achieve the same time?
I don’t think so. (if you do please tell me in the comments)

Feedback makes a difference even for such a small task.
Now what if someone else would be your eyes? By now you might be tired of these exercises, if you aren’t, please try the following;
you close your eyes and while someone else gives you feedback, you do the balancing act.

Does it work better? If it doesn’t, maybe change PM euh feedback person.
Does this new person allow you to be back at your original level?

If you are like most people, you aren’t. Looks like your feedback is better than the delayed feedback from other people.
What if you are allowed to open your eyes for one second every 10 seconds?
What if you would do it every 5 seconds?
I don’t think you need to try this, to know that the shorter the feedback cycle, the better the result.
The agile mindset is about shortening the feedback cycle.

If you need another story, check out Lisa Crispin’s nice posts  about how shorter feedback helped her with donkey driving.