Why do we rarely Feed Forward?

Why do we rarely Feed Forward?

Our age-old friend: feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is a tried and tested ‘thing’ in most organisations and is therefore likely to be familiar to most people. The idea is to spend time reviewing a completed event or process with the view of distilling key learnings and looking for those all-important marginal gains to make next time even better.

This Feedback can come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Group appreciation circles – opportunity for everyone involved to express appreciation for others in their team who they recognise have contributed. There are ways to do this without it feeling cheesy! Just do it regularly, don’t make too big a thing of it and focus on using positive language that affirms others.
  • 360 Reviews / Profiling[1]
  • Appraisals (although I hate this name! How about Personal Development Priorities (PDP)? or just Coaching?
  • Doodle polls
  • W6’s – What did I do well? What did you do well? What did we do well? What could I do better? What could you do better? What could we do better?

But what’s the big problem that remains?

Whilst all of the above is helpful. if feedback remains feedback, it very rarely actually achieves the well-intended purpose it was designed for.

Let me explain.

Lucy has just finished giving a presentation to investors. She was observed by two colleagues who helped her construct the pitch. Here is a summary of the feedback the group created.


  1. Great connection – the investors loved the opening story and really seemed to buy into the story … which meant they remained engaged throughout.
  2. Really good eye contact – the communications workshop run by Leaderfull[2] really helped the pitch to be communicated with confidence without the distraction of notes and having to learn a script.
  3. The image on slide 3 was particularly powerful.

Things to improve on

  1. Set-up was a bit rushed due to tech issues on the client’s system. Suggest we arrive 30 mins earlier next time to have sufficient buffer for issues like this.
  2. The conclusion slide was a little ‘full’ and could have been clearer.
  3. It might be helpful to have two presenters next time – just to mix up the voice.

The example above is fairly standard feedback and even in just a few simple sentences, captures so much. The feedback is collated and even shared with the person involved. The foundation is set for next time being even better.

Herein lies the problem!

There will probably be a next time but how is Lucy going to ensure the helpful feedback she received actually makes its way to the next time, rather than being stored on a well-meant Word document stored in a client folder on a database, collecting proverbial dust?

What does this cost us?

It’s simple – failing to use feedback costs us most of the benefit of actually gathering the feedback in the first place. I say most of it because it is certainly true that some things will be remembered and put into practice. Yet, why do we so often settle for this? Why set ourselves up to only benefit in part from our feedback?

What’s the solution?

What Lucy (and perhaps you, and certainly I) need to do is FEED FORWARD our feedback. This process simply involves two steps.

The first is straightforward: take the feedback you are provided and distil it into a series of memorable and practical nudges to seek to put into practice next time.

Based on the feedback Lucy received above, here is an example of possible nudges she could record:

  1. Arrive earlier with more time-buffer
  2. Simplify the final slide
  3. Take a second presenter

Step 2 is equally as simple but all-important: intentionality!

Here are five suggestions of possible methods that could be relevant in your context:

  1. Tag / highlight the Client Feedback Folder (on my laptop, this involves Right Click > Select coloured Tag) so you cannot fail to look at it when the next job comes up.
  2. If you know when your next meeting / presentation is diarised for, make a note a week before in your Calendar to review previous feedback. Get into this habit and it will become second nature.
  3. As above but put the feedback in the Notes section at the bottom of a scheduled appointment.
  4. If feedback is more general, diarise a quarterly meeting in your diary to review Feedback from Q1. This can then be fed forward into Q2 as a note to self or sent round to your team and a timely reminder.
  5. Take responsibility to feedforward to others. E.g. “Lucy, remember the last time you gave this presentation. What were the key things you committed to doing differently this time”. As we learn to look out for each other and in so doing, coach one another towards continuous improvement, we will find they start doing this for us.

 What’s the impact?

In my own practice, the discipline of feeding forward has been huge. I’ll admit, at the start of the process, it felt like just another thing to do and I wasn’t convinced. Over the months, however, I’ve noticed it has helped me to repeat the things that I’ve done well and avoid the sloppy mistakes that are so easily repeated. Try it and see. I’d love to hear how you get on.

[1] I’d recommend the behavioural profiling tool provided by C-me Colour Profiling –

[2] If you would be interested in exploring how I could support you in your communication, please get in touch

Mark is an experienced communicator, coach, trainer and facilitator. His passion is to release leadership potential in people who lack confidence and perhaps do not fit the leadership stereotype. Do get in touch if you’d be interested in finding out more:

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