Aligning throughCulture Renewal
Feedback loops are often an untapped resource to enhance creativity and innovation in companies. Astute organizations recognize the value and use of feedback loops to stimulate learning and innovation at all levels.
Why? Feedback loops lay down the foundation for an organizational mindset which is favorable for scalable learning and innovation throughout the organization. Through the cultivation of an environment which intentionally promotes the use of feedback loops, an organization benefits from the wisdom of employees which is harvested to reap productive insights for the business.
Definition of Feedback: Information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.
What kind of environment does a Peer-to-Peer Learning session create for the productive use of feedback loops? A Peer-to-Peer Learning session brings four participants from all levels of an organization together for a 90 minute exchange of ideas and perspectives on a specific business issue (ie. teamwork, accountability) and/or challenge (ie. collaboration and digitalization). The process is self-organizing through the use of a proprietary app which enables diverse employees to register for a Peer-to-Peer session online from any device. (For a more detailed a description about how this app eliminates costly coordination time read here) Peer-to-Peer sessions are held on-site in a company’s existing meeting areas, eliminating travel time and related expenses. These P2P discussions are led by an experienced Learning Enabler who has been coached and mentored to fulfill this special role.
How are feedback loops seamlessly integrated into the Peer-to-Peer Learning experience? Two formats are currently being used to provide helpful information for an organization’s reflection and learning:
1. A CUSTOM DESIGNED FEEDBACK QUESTIONNAIRE about the Peer-to-Peer Learning experience. This questionnaire contains a series of questions assessing the nature and quality of the Peer-to-Peer Learning module and an open question to gather information about a specific business issue or project. This is accompanied by socio-demographic data to understand the users of the learning modules and their responses. This input is mostly quantitative in nature.
2. A GROUP PROPOSAL FORM for a joint suggestion based on the learnings from the Peer-to-Peer learning module to be communicated to the company management. At the end of the module, each participant is asked to reflect upon an idea or suggestion which he/she would like to make to the company. The next step is a group discussion about each of the four ideas. After each participant’s contribution is heard, the group formulates one group proposal to be communicated to the company’s management. This input is qualitative in nature and allows the voice of the participants to be heard without any intermediary filters.
The feedback from these two feedback instruments are digitally documented for analysis. Ensemble Enabler’s supporting digital software enables this process to be completed quickly and efficiently. Due to the nature of the information which is collected, insights can be gleaned from both instruments from a variety of perspectives including demographics and local/geographic differences to name just a few.
The subsequent analysis is undertaken from the perspective of identifying useful and constructive insights for an organization. The results of the custom-designed questionnaire provide feedback about the nature of the participants’ Peer-to-Peer Learning experience in order to get a feel for the impact of the module experience from an individual point-of-view.
During the course of offering a specific Peer-to-Peer Learning module over a 4 to 6 week period within a company, a wealth of proposals are generated for analysis. After a thorough review of each specific proposal, clusters of emerging thematic issues are generated. The results of this in-depth analysis are transformed into a “10.000 meter view” to enable the company’s management to reflect upon the feedback, build upon the ideas/proposals and consider action on them. Based on our experience, it is very fruitful to provide these executive summaries available not only to the leadership but to the regional office/plants as well, thus flattening the decision hierarchy by making the results accessible to more decision makers throughout the company. This encourages a “test and learn mindset” and a willingness to act on ideas.
The results from one Peer-to-Peer Learning module from a family-owned manufacturing business with 3,000 employees highlight the enormous potential of the use of such a feedback loop process. During the course of 6 weeks, one third of the employees participated in a specific module about continuous improvement. At the end of the module roll-out, 250 proposals were received from a diverse group of participants.
After careful analysis of this input, four overall thematic clusters emerged from the group proposals:
1. An employee assessment of the current state of the corporate culture
2. An image about how values, attitudes and behaviors are experienced in the workforce
3. An expressed concern for the development of a digital strategy integrating the production and office arenas
4. Proposed improvements to the overall production process
All of these thematic clusters were accompanied by sub-themes and specific information in order to provide sufficient information as a basis for reflection and learning to glean productive insights for the company. Fourteen specific projects emerged out of the reflection upon the analyzed results.
A willingness to act on these ideas is paramount. Building upon these proposals enabled the company take action and explore better ways to approach specific strategic business issues. The combined process of feedback loops and analysis of the proposals was continued during the next series of Peer-to-Peer Learning modules. These results also provided continual feedback to enhance the on-going development of the business.
“Just as innovation is more about the environment of cultivating ideas at all levels of the organization, so the spirit of feedback and learning should permeate all levels.”
The Technology Fallacy
As the quote above highlights, the use of feedback loops becomes part of the way things get done in a company in order to tap into the know-how and experience of everyone at all levels of the business. By cultivating a mindset of organizational learning in this manner, new horizons for continual improvement and innovation become visible. Through reflection and learning from and together with others, an organization identifies new avenues for constructive action. The lessons learned through the use of the feedback loop process effectively address a business’ challenges and identify realizable solutions in a rapidly changing business environment. As a result, the process of feedback loops and analytics can provide valuable impetus to drive business model transformation.