Whether it is about your work product, your ability to conduct a meeting or the way you look? Can you remember the last time you said “thank you” to feedback? Whether the feedback feels positive or negative, be thankful that a stakeholder took the time to give you feedback. While business analysts and project managers are often facilitators, helping others achieve their goals, we work with people who often have “day jobs.” They are having to help our current project or change initiative in addition to doing their regular work. They took the time to read what you had created and gave you feedback. That is a gift!
So why does it feel so hard to receive this feedback when it is negative? It is because you took the feedback towards yourself, not your work product. Yes, you spent 6 hours producing a requirements traceability matrix that you validated with numerous SMEs to ensure all elements were captured. Yes, the presentation was very clear and concise with aesthetically pleasing visuals. But your job as the BA or the PM is to help the team deliver their solution. This is part of getting behind the best idea regardless who came up with them. You do not own the end solution – your stakeholders do. The first step with feedback is letting go of personalizing the feedback.
Once you have let go of your own ego, you can take a moment and be proud that you were able to elicit feedback. Knowing if you are going down the right direction or the wrong direction is better than having no direction. Put on your analysis hat and look at what kind of feedback you received. Was the feedback about the presentation style? Your content could have been correct but came across unclear due to presentation style. Or was the feedback about specific requirements? You might have not discussed the requirements with a particularly knowledgeable SME who knew additional details to include. Be specific on your analysis to clearly articulate what the feedback is focused on.
Then work WITH the stakeholder to make it ‘right.’ Ask the person giving feedback what they would do to make it correct. A different presentation format? Additional requirements? Modify the acceptance criteria? And then literally make the updates right then and there WITH the stakeholder. They get to see you take the gift they have just handed you and apply it. Make the stakeholder part of the solution, not the problem.
This is a great consideration when you are trying to facilitate feedback. Rather than walking into a meeting with chest puffed out excited about how awesome your business requirements document (BRD) is, go in with an attitude of what’s missing. Business analysts practice asking good questions all the time. They often know there are risks with leading questions when you are talking to a stakeholder. If you lead them into an answer, then you will get that answer. You want a different answer, then you need to ask a wider question. If you are wanting feedback on your BRD, do not walk in telling people how awesome it is. In some cultures, they will simply smile and nod at you, giving you the impression you are right. Only the stakeholders are too scared to say anything and will discuss all the ‘wrongs’ only after you leave the room. Walking in with a more open attitude geared towards developing the great solution with those in attendance gives more space for the feedback needed for a successful solution. Do not forget why you need the feedback. The feedback is not about how well you’ve completed the task. Feedback is meant to help your stakeholders define, deliver and leverage a successful solution. That is your ultimate measure of success.
So treat your feedback like any gift you may receive this holiday season – always be thankful that someone has thought of you. Later you can decide whether to keep it, return it, exchange it, get rid of it or re-gift it for someone else but remember feedback always starts with a gift.