There are a number of feedback loops that are present in every organization. Essential for both providing and gathering relevant information to complete work, feedback loops are cyclical and an important part of keeping lines of communication and collaboration open both within the organization and outside in the community with clients and stakeholders. They are also a critical element of effective management.
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The following is an overview of the four most important loops:
Manager-Subordinate Feedback Loop
Of primary importance is the feedback loop with subordinates. It’s critical that managers maintain appropriate contact with their subordinates in terms of understanding the work that they are doing to effectively delegate, receive information, coach when problems arise, and give feedback when things go astray. This feedback loop is an essential component of two-way communication between a manager and his or her subordinates.
Manager-Team Feedback Loop
The second type of feedback loop involves a manager and his or her team. Managers are accountable for bringing a group together and providing them with information they need, but also, for receiving input from them for decisions. One of the biggest risks is a manager using the feedback loop inappropriately; as an opportunity to hold a series of one-on-one meetings. While there are subjects that should be discussed at the individual level, there are many conversations that are more appropriate for another forum.
Manager-Manager Feedback Loop
The next circle of feedback involves peer managers; both within the same department, as well as in other areas of the organization. For managers who report to your boss, what kinds of feedback loops do you need as a member of that managing team? These feedback loops make it possible to be aware of what others are doing – and how your work impacts what they are doing – and vice versa. The next loop is with other mangers in other parts of the organization that interface with your work. It’s important to have feedback loops in the context of giving AND receiving information across departments. If I am in Operations, to do my job effectively, I need to know how the work done in Accounting impacts my job, and how it all ties back to the organization’s overarching strategic plan.
Manager-Community Feedback Loop
Finally, there need to be feedback loops established between managers and the outside community, including clients and other stakeholders. Giving and receiving information on your work as well as any relevant environmental issues or concerns that impact that work (for example) is critical for ensuring organizational strategy is attained properly and lawfully.
Furthering Performance Management Systems
Managers must give feedback to their subordinate managers on the success or failure of work. Feedback loops are partly a guide for attaining a deliverable, but also a way to review the actions that were taken to attain those deliverables in the first place.
Many organizations use formal Performance Management systems, where once a year managers can document an assessment of their subordinates. Ongoing feedback loops ensure these assessments are never a surprise as communication channels between the manager and the subordinate have been open and frequent. Effective feedback loops can ensure annual meetings are just a formality for successfully documenting the discussions that have transpired over the past year.
Feedback loops are an instrumental tool for managers to stay abreast of information both within and outside the organization. To be effective, they need to be regular and ongoing in terms of keeping in touch with subordinates, but also “just in time”, to help managers have the appropriate conversations when necessary. As a means to collaborate, to stay informed and to communicate, feedback loops are an essential part of effective management.
As a final note of feedback loops, managers also need to have appropriate feedback loops with their own managers. While the first two describe feedback from your perspective down the organization, your own manager should be establishing these feedback loops with you. If that is not happening, you may need to take action to seek appropriate feedback and context from your own manager.
This is the final part of a 5-part series which delves deeper into “The 5 Requirements of Effective Managers“.