Yesterday, I told you about a new use for an old strategy. We also came up with a new way of soliciting feedback. Because the project is still at the 30,000-foot stage, we need a specific kind of feedback. Not the usual copy editing or wordsmithing it's common to get when asking generally for comments. What we need to know is what's missing and what additional questions our audience has.

Actionable feedback v. that other crap

We know from our own work in newsrooms and corporate communications departments that getting actionable feedback at the right time in the process doesn't usually happen organically. It's the old garbage in/garbage out issue. If the request for feedback isn't specific, you'll get back all kinds of stuff, only some of which is useful.

Learn how to streamline the review process and get better quality feedback.

Getting input you can use

So for this project, we sent out the extended outline with these simple instructions:

Please read the attached list of topics for the upcoming report. At the end of each item, please note any questions raised by the text; also tell us if there's a topic or aspect of a topic that we've missed.  Please don't invest time in rewriting or editing this text. We're working with ideas and details only at this point. You'll have an opportunity for revisions and corrections when we have created the actual document. Thanks.

This context helped reviewers do a better job of giving us useful feedback. Sure, a few still made comments that weren't helpful. But for the most part, we got a few solid ideas of what to add, and a good list of questions we want to try to answer in the actual document. Score!

So as you ask for input on something today, think about what you really need to know and ask for that instead of asking for "feedback".


Credit for the Idea-Details goes to my brilliant husband, Steve Peha. © 1995-2011 Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used by permission.