Have you ever wondered what makes Agile so special and so productive? My guess would be because it closes loops and allows fast and useful feedback.

Extreme Programming is all about feedback, openly stated: pair programming, regression testing, continuous integration are all ways of generating the right feedback. Scrum is also based on feedback loops: the daily scrum, the sprint with its feedback on the backlog updated along the way and the product itself via the demoing of product increment. Take every method that claims to be agile and you’ll notice its basic signature is the creation of feedback loops. Test-Driven Development is all about instantaneous feedback loops on the code you write.

But… what about the loops agile has not yet closed? Where else could we benefit from additional feedback loops? Here are some ideas:

  1. At the individual level
    Agile is very much about teams. Though there are some methods for providing feedback to the team members – for example the perfection game -, what else could be done? A very obvious loop is personal coaching.
  2. At the team level
    Retrospectives are a way to collect feedback about the process and the team morale. This is definitely a good starting point, but what other feedback loops could be built around the team to improve its efficiency? For example, how could the team get feedback from the rest of the organisation about the work it is doing and from the customers about the quality of the product as perceived by the customer itself?
  3. At the department level
    What feedback loops do you have to bring the learning collected by one team into the other team? What about periodical open space sessions to share experiences and grow ideas?
  4. With management
    What feedback loops do you have in place to make sure the exact wishes and needs of the owners of the company are fed into the development organisation? What feedback loops do you have in place for them to learn about the way you work and your needs?
  5. With the rest of the organisation
    What feedback loops could you have with, for example, HR, purchasing, finance, … to improve the quality of the interaction with these entities?

Of course it’s not just a matter of implementing any feedback loop, but rather skillfully set up what is important for an organisation to function healthily and constantly improve. The experience with Agile suggest that fast pace, timely and deterministic feedback works well – think about TDD or the daily Scrum: I would suggest to start applying these criteria first…

Before I finish and leave you thinking about the possible feedback loops you will implement next, be aware not to use rewards and praises as a form of feedback. Feedback is about a learning organisation, not about a behaviouralistic mean to condition your people.