A friend told me about a pattern of giving feedback that I think does a good job of avoiding the pitfalls of the first two patterns. I didn't ask him where he learned it, and I could only find one reference to it: http://bit.ly/dEwGw4 The pattern is called "what-what-why" and it works like this:
- Tell what you didn't/don't like or what you think didn't/doesn't work well
- Tell what you would like instead
- Tell why you think your suggestion would be more effective
- I don't like how our team is spread out and in individual cubicles
- I'd like it if we moved into one room and sat at a cluster of tables
- We'd "overhear" important information and there would be fewer barriers to asking each other questions.
- One thing that didn't work for me in the retrospective was when you would say something before someone else was finished speaking
- I'd like it if you allow other people to finish their point and then add yours
- I think the meeting would flow more smoothly and everyone would that they would get their chance to be fully heard.
I recognize, however, that not all feedback is intended to cause a different outcome. Sometimes someone is doing something that I like or that I think is working well and I want to let that person know. In that situation, I use a "what-why" pattern:
- Tell what you like/liked or what you think works/worked well
- Tell why you like it or think it works well
- On the story wall, I like how you've given each team member a tag that they can put on the story that they are working on.
- Not only does it let everyone know what everyone else is working on, but it's a good way of reminding people to only work on one story at a time.
If you try what-what-why or what-why, I'd be interested to hear your results. Do you have similar feedback patterns that you find useful?