Jun 02, 2016

Immediate Feedback and Reflection are Often Missing Keys to Performance Improvement

Justin Bell

Justin Bell

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The last few days I’ve been thinking about how helpful real-time feedback and measurable results are in improving fitness and how that’s really missing from most teams’ performance management and many companies product development.

For runners, you have a training plan with specific daily goals for mileage and pace / effort. Afterwards, you can measure and record how you did and how you felt. In Crossfit, every day is a measurable challenge that you can record and later compare. I recently started doing Orangetheory and they take it to a different level. Each athlete wears a heart rate monitor throughout the workout and your data is being displayed up on a big screen, along with the other athletes. At the end of the workout, you receive an email with a summary of your performance (e.g., max heart rate, average heart rate, time spent in different target zones, etc.). It’s an extremely powerful motivator and a great way to measure your progress over time and make sure you are trending in the right direction on a daily basis to meet your bigger goals. The results from this type of focused and measurable activity are so much better than from just “working out”.

In product / software development, this is where some of the Agile concepts can play a very important role. Whether you are talking about measuring your sprint burn down or just the accountability of the daily scrum, having frequent feedback on progress is a key to successful execution.


In addition, frequent releases to actual users helps you to get measurable and real feedback from your customers and users to determine if you are on the right path and what adjustments you need to make.

Design sprints can be a very effective way to design a solution to a certain problem and get actual user validation, all within a couple of weeks.  Think of the time, effort and money saved and the improvement in quality / user experience over  a more traditional and elongated process.


In performance management, I think we still have a long way to go. Many companies only provide real feedback to their employees / teams as part of an annual review process. Imagine if you did that with your workout. Go an entire year without ever looking in the mirror, measuring your results on some benchmark workout or stepping on a scale…and just hope that your diet and workout are getting the results you expect.

Instead, think of the power of more frequent feedback cycles, where on a daily basis every member of your team was getting feedback on how they are doing and how they can be more effective.

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