Friday, December 21, 2012

Feedback on the small

We’re at the end of the year… and given that December 21 is more than half-way done, I’m relatively confident that no apocalypse will keep me from seeing 2013. As with many people, I take some time at the end of the year to evaluate how I’ve done, and what I want to change going into the new year.

But I’ve been thinking about smaller feedback loops recently. I got a bread-maker as an early Christmas gift (I think my husband and sons were anxious to enjoy the results!), and have discovered that I need to evaluate and adjust every recipe that we make – the joys of living at high altitude.

So, I’m taking notes on how much more water or less yeast I need. One loaf worked quite well – almost too well! So I’m starting with the adjustments from there. A tablespoon more water, an eighth of a teaspoon less yeast, less flour, more salt… you get the idea I’m sure. I’m currently tracking all these changes in pencil on the recipes I’m using. I’ll get it right eventually, I’m sure.

In cooking, you can see the results, and get the feedback, almost immediately. How come I have trouble remembering to evaluate my coding work? The sprint’s daily progress? The most recent teachable moment? We don't need to wait for the retrospective, or even the daily stand-up, to assess our work, as a team or an individual.

What are the comments, sensations, and reactions in your daily life that provide the same feedback as that first bite of fresh-baked bread? How do we keep track of the incremental improvements? Some possible reflections:

“That conversation went well. I remembered to listen to the end of the sentence.”
“My unit tests got further when I added an init() method.”
“This sprint seems to be going better than the last one. We decided to start ‘walking the board’ in stand-up and now everyone knows exactly what’s going on.”
“The team is more open in appreciating each other’s contributions. I wonder if that’s a result of the appreciations part of our last two retrospectives.”

Happy New Year! May you find feedback where you need it, as well as the quick, agile adjustments to get the most out of that feedback.

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