How to Provide Actionable and Consolidated Feedback - A Five Step Process

“Should we use a different color here?” “Per Katie this needs to include a CTA.” “I’m not sure I get a sense of urgency with this image.” “This circle should be darker blue.” – stakeholder #1; “This circle should be our lighter brand color.” – stakeholder #2.
Sound familiar? When client input is needed to move a project forward, e.g. what tweaks to incorporate in order to finalize and get approval, we (your project team) need actionable and consolidated feedback.
But, what do we mean by actionable? It’s all on one page, doesn’t that mean it’s consolidated? Here are few tips for ensuring your project team has what we need to most efficiently complete the work and avoid the back-and-forth that can turn into a change order.

  1. Relating to or being information that allows a decision to be made or action to be taken.
  2. Capable of being readily used. 
Feedback should be something we can move forward with without having to loop back to you for confirmation or clarification. The three key things to keep in mind are:
  1. Be goal-focused. What is the intent of the piece being developed? Feedback irrelevant to the aligned-upon, approved understanding of the goal or purpose of the deliverable can result in churn and possibly a change order.
  2. Be specific. Per the definitions above, make sure we can incorporate your feedback, leaving no room to question your intent.
    • Give answers, not more questions. If the feedback includes a question from you that only you or your internal team can answer, we will have to loop back to you for the answer. This results in lost time, or burned hours.
  3. Be appropriate to the phase you are in. If you have already given your approval on a concept, calling into question elements of that concept will result in churn, and possibly a change order, for revisiting that phase. Likewise, if you are still in the concept phase, thoughts on future production details are likely to be lost or forgotten when the time comes to implement them. Save it for the relevant phase to come.
  1. To become solidified or united.
  2. To join in a merger or union.
Frequently feedback is delivered in the form of a document that has been passed from one stakeholder to the next, resulting in a Word document with tracked changes, or a PDF with comments from multiple people.  Or multiple files are delivered from each separate stakeholder. This can result in conflicting feedback between stakeholders; we have to decipher if the question Chris asked about the color of a circle is unanswered, or the comment Sara made about the color of the circle is the decision. Eventually we’ll end up sending that feedback back to you to clarify.
Additionally, feedback that trickles in late from a stakeholder can cause rework. Again, without the feedback being consolidated, or conflicting comments rectified, an additional round of stakeholder comments could derail the progress made on feedback currently being implemented.
Here is a 5-step process to help deliver actionable and consolidated feedback: 
  1. Appoint a single point of contact. One person on your team responsible for reviewing all feedback coming in from the internal stakeholders.
  2. Assign a deadline for feedback to be delivered to that contact. If its late that person’s voice isn’t heard, or if its crucial, we need to be made aware of it as soon as possible so we can halt the work we are doing.
  3. Review for any conflicting feedback. Do Joe and Megan have differing opinions about a visual used? Is any feedback posed as a question? Notate that then reach out to those offering the feedback.
  4. Align on resolutions. Get Joe and Megan together to resolve the conflict. Get answers to those outstanding questions before sending to the project team.
    • Another suggestion here is to schedule an internal review call after we’ve given our presentation. This way all stakeholders are gathered and the content is fresh in mind. Use this time to align on feedback and resolve any conflicting thoughts.
  5. Provide a single document with all feedback. A PDF or Word Doc, even an Excel spreadsheet in the form of a content matrix; so long as the feedback is all in there, and its all actionable. 
Usually, the biggest reason these steps are not taken is time. We all understand the pressures on your calendar. Be transparent about realistic time needed to gather and consolidate the feedback. If a project schedule has feedback due on Friday, but you know you’ll need until Tuesday, communicate that to the project team. In reality it’ll likely impact your project schedule by that two days, but the time saved when we have clear and specific direction to move forward with, may just balance it out in the end; plus it will go a long way to keeping a project on budget.
Frequently we see great progress on a project that ends up getting to someone’s boss, or executive sponsor, as we are nearing the end of production.  When the boss isn’t aligned with the team’s decisions, this can result in having to take several steps back in the process and not only require a change order, but add time to the overall schedule. This is never a good thing when on a tight deadline. Our number one recommendation is to be transparent with your project team. Let them know whom this person is and we can make sure we solicit feedback from them at the appropriate point in the project schedule.
Of course, life happens, and we can’t plan for every contingency. These tips are your best bet for eliminating as many of those potential bumps in the road as possible.

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