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Harry Hertz

Quality Insider

It’s the Baldrige F-Word Season

That’s ‘feedback,’ of course

Published: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 14:59

I am of course talking about feedback; you needn’t admit that you were thinking a different word.

Soon the first set of feedback reports will be sent to 2014 Baldrige Award applicants. So I thought this might be a good time to reflect on Baldrige feedback, and feedback in general.

I have always viewed feedback, properly delivered and properly received, as a gift. Nevertheless, we must recognize that feedback, even to a group or organization, is taken personally. Properly delivered, therefore, means with care, recognizing that no matter how accurate or well-documented, we see constructive feedback first as failures on our part. The key is to see it as opportunity. That means being prepared to receive the feedback and knowing that no person or organization is perfect, including you and me. So, the attitude of the recipient should be: I will try to understand the opportunity that is being presented to me.

As deliverers of feedback we should use constructive (positive), not destructive language, recognize that human emotions will be involved, and not forget to mention strengths as well as opportunities. Furthermore, we should put ourselves in the position of the receiver in reviewing the feedback that will be given. How would I like it worded if I were the recipient?

For some insights on personal feedback, see a recent F-word column in Government Executive.

Let me share some thoughts on organizational feedback, like a Baldrige feedback report. As with personal feedback, prepare yourself for a constructive summary of strengths and opportunities for improvement:
• Don’t ignore the strengths and jump right to the opportunities for improvement. The strengths are worth enjoying, celebrating, and building on.
• Recognize that an outside group of people with limited knowledge of your organization prepared the feedback report. They don’t know the organization as well as you do. The feedback will not be 100-percent accurate, because there is information they probably didn't have that you have.
• Don’t use the inaccurate information as an excuse to ignore valuable insights that either confirm what you knew, or have identified a blind spot.
• Lay down the feedback report after the initial read to allow for the emotional reaction to subside.

Pick it up again in 24 hours and do a systematic review of the suggestions:
• Which strengths give us a competitive advantage that we should further build on and use to our benefit?
• Which opportunities for improvement will give us the greatest benefit if addressed?
• Choose a handful of the recommendations and establish action teams. Look for short- and long-term opportunities. As the senior leader, give these teams your personal attention and the resources they need.
• Be open and transparent in sharing information.

Learn to love the “F” word. It is a gift!

First published Sept. 23, 2014, on Blogrige.

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About The Author

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Harry Hertz

 Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where he served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the Advisory Group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.