Continuous Feedback for Improved Project Delivery

Carl article image-01By Carl Davis

Feedback has long been touted as the magic ingredient for successful organizations according to everyone from business efficiency experts to relationship gurus. Ken Blanchard, in his book “The Heart of a Leader,” calls feedback “the breakfast of champions.” The reason is simple: incorporating feedback helps us perform at our best, while the very act of asking for feedback proves we are proactive and professional.

Hospitals collect customer feedback through HCAHPS scores, allowing immediate feedback regarding the level of satisfaction of their patients. This feedback is so important to quality and safety, HCAHPS scores are now a component of determining a hospital’s Medicare reimbursement. For architects and designers, obtaining customer feedback requires more effort.

Successful healthcare design delivery teams work in highly collaborative environments. The ability to adapt quickly plays an important role in the success of the team from a client’s perspective.

Without a continuous feedback process, a project can get sideways very quickly, yet when feedback is early and actionable, it can accelerate a team’s performance by providing information that allows the team to course correct before issues become insurmountable and before project goals are jeopardized.

Timely feedback arms design teams with actionable information to meet client expectations throughout the lifecycle of the project, while also helping keep the team environment and culture positive and supportive.

At Array, we use client feedback to inform and influence our project delivery process as the project is unfolding. Continuous feedback, borne out of a belief in Lean improvement processes, allows an entire team, including consultants, to react quickly to situations where we may not be meeting our client’s expectations and to change course as needed.

But while client feedback data does create a competitive advantage, the advantage doesn’t come from merely collecting the data, it’s how you frame the questions and act on feedback that really makes the difference.

Comfortable Process
Our questions are focused on processes, not personalities, and offer a flexible answer scale to capture subtle nuances of perceptions to help the team. This process is comfortable for all parties and takes about two minutes for the client to complete. The more comfortable the process, the more likely parties are to participate. A comfortable process means clients will not feel put on the spot and concerned about a confrontation.

Actionable Results
An effective feedback technique requires data to enable follow-up. The questions asked are about process rather than people. We aren’t looking to find out how well clients “like” us, but rather where our process is working well and where it might need some improvement to meet their expectations. The questions we ask allow us to retrieve measurable, actionable data so that the team can take corrective action immediately.

Beyond Satisfaction
Questions in our survey are focused on client expectations, instead of their satisfaction, because satisfaction is the expected norm. Our client’s perception of how we performed compared to their expectations is the key to knowing where to improve our project delivery process. Discovering exceptionally positive feedback is nice, but uncovering challenging feedback in time to take corrective action is really more important. Feedback helps keep us and our client aligned on a common goal — a successful project outcome.

Don’t Wait
We collect feedback throughout the project, not just at the end, when it’s too late to improve that project. For instance, receiving feedback after important early project visioning sessions can help to influence how subsequent user meetings are conducted. We have witnessed response rates to be the highest when our client senses feedback might improve the project outcome.

Feedback reportMake it Trackable
Tracking feedback responses isn’t complicated, but making sure everyone on your team gets the feedback they need, reviews it and takes appropriate action, can be much more challenging. The tools we have deployed capture who is asking for feedback, who is responding and who is taking action on each critical response. Feedback is collected in a way that appropriate team members are instantly alerted to new feedback to drive real-time action and follow-up. Feedback that indicates we are not meeting client expectations are elevated immediately for follow-up, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

Our surveys are structured so that it is quick and easy for the client; we don’t waste our clients’ time with long surveys or questions with answers that only matter to us. We have enjoyed fairly high response rates in part because clients have begun to see that their responses result in follow-up and action when needed. We use surveys to start a conversation, not replace one. When special situations are noted (either in scores or comments), a dialogue is opened to change our process going forward.

Simply stated, our goal is to collect actionable feedback in a way that is easy for the client, to improve our delivery process and meet client expectations of project success.

Carl Davis is president and CEO of Array Architects. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @CarlJDavis_.

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Posted July 16, 2013

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