Feedback, Schmeedback

When my fellow Black Belts and I facilitate, or teach, we ask the participants to give us feedback at the end of each session. We use the plus-delta format that we inherited from our original consultants, by dividing a flip-chart page into two columns for the “plusses” (things that worked well, were meaningful, or strengths) and the “deltas” (things that didn’t work well, could be improved, or were weaknesses.

By now, we’ve collected so many of these plus-delta flip charts that we can almost predict the outcomes on both sides. Plusses are things like fast pace, kept to schedule, good exercises, good team interaction, the food. Deltas are things like room too hot, room too cold, could have been done in a shorter time, needed more time, the food.

Initially, the plus-deltas were very informative and we learned a lot aboutwhat participants likedand disliked. Many of us modified our style based on the feedback, and we made revisions to the structure of our classes and the presentations in our project meetings.

After all this time,it’s tempting to say, “I know what will come up on the plus-delta so I’m not going to bother to do them any more.”

There are still a couple of good reasons to keep doing the plus-deltas, though.

One is, that as king for feedback and comments is a team-building activity, especially when we return the favor in the next session and talk about the comments (without defending or excusing as a form of response!).

Another is, that even in the midst of the familiar feedback, there may be a grain or two of truth to be gleaned that no-one else has thought to mention. If we didn’t ask for the participants’ thoughts, we might miss an insight into something that could have a major beneficial impact as a result.

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Also, we as facilitators should practice what we preach.”Don’t assume that you know what your customers want without asking them!” So we should model the behavior.

A last comment – now that we can, in most cases, guess what most of the comments will be, we are trying to improve our quality by asking for the comments “in real time.” For example, giving us a delta that there were too many sidebar conversations, at the end of the day, can’t help us to correct that situation. So now we may make a suggestion at the beginning of the session that if a team member has any feedback about the content, pace, or team interaction, that the comment or suggestion be shared right away. In this way, we can get consensus from the team about the need to adapt, and we can solve any problem quickly before it distracts other people on the team.

We still plan to continue using the plus-deltas; looking on them as a source of VOC has helped us to realize their on-going value.

Comments 4

  1. GaryPCox

    Hi Sue,
    The same could be said of getting expectations up front at the beginning of the class… “What would you like to get out of this course?” The same list always gets generated. Then of course we, as instructors or leaders add, if it’s not been written; ’”How about fun? Do we want to add that?”

    These exercises do add value, they align minds and are, in my opinion, part of the ’Forming/Stoming’ of turning the class into learning team. They become a Terms of Reference from which to build the learning to the benefit of attendees.


  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Hi Gary, I couldn’t agree more. Your scenario of "How about fun?" struck home with me because that’s happened so many times… As you said, it’s worth the "sacrifice" to properly build the team.
    –Sue K.

  3. Siggy Sig

    In my experience, even if the outcomes of the plus/delta are predictable, it really models the behavior that all belts should be trying to replicate in their own meetings. That’s how I learned to do it, and now try to make it a part of all of my meetings.

  4. Ken der Ami

    One of our Six Sigma projects is "Plan & Hold Effective Meetings". We are now using the plus/delta tool as an aid to measuring during the Control Phase. As others have mentioned, it also is a good team-building exercise (even in a short, one-time meeting) as well as modeling a commitment to Quality and Continuous Improvement.

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