Build Internal Feedback Loops to Gauge Success
Nobody likes the sound of audio feedback screeching from a P.A. amplifier, but other feedback loops can be valuable tools to help businesses monitor progress, identify problems, and improve performance. In fact, it’s impossible for a company to improve a process without first measuring it because there will be no way of knowing if progress is being made or not. Feedback loops are circuits of cause-and-effect that companies use to evaluate any ongoing activity. In this way, management can make continual adjustments to steadily improve each activity or process. This recurring approach creates a kind of ongoing virtuous cycle to monitor almost any business function and catch problems before they escalate. Feedback loops can be used to gauge employee sentiment, measure customer satisfaction, test out new concepts, compare vendor pricing and availability, or even plan an event. Social media posts provide an excellent platform to get immediate feedback from customers. For instance, whenever a buyer posts a complaint on Twitter or Facebook, the company can quickly gather information about the problem and route it to the proper department. Once the department determines how to address the issue, a community manager can contact the consumer to resolve the problem. In addition, such complaints can be compiled over time to analyze which departments or teams generate the most customer grievances. Staff surveys provide a different type of feedback loop to take the pulse of the workforce, according to a recent article in Forbes
by Daniel Newman, a principal analyst for Futurum Research. “Although biannual (survey) forms may be antiquated, a business can streamline this feedback loop within an organization,” Newman notes. He also suggests that managers can use something as simple as a regular breakfast meeting to generate ideas and receive informal employee feedback. A more formal approach involves crowd-solving software sessions that compile employee ideas about shared problems and initiatives. A mobile crowd-solving app
allows employees to anonymously voice their concerns and then vote on their favorite solutions. In this way, management can empower employees to come up with their own shared answers, thus improving staff buy-in and alignment. Feedback loops should be clearly organized by business functions. The highest executive functions often rely on big data analytics software to sort through mountains of digital information from across the company. Business intelligence dashboards help managers visualize ongoing patterns for sales and operations, while flagging any unexpected patterns that appear out of the ordinary. Secondary feedback loops can be designed to focus on specific improvements to existing business processes. Such loops should have ongoing chains that track changes over time for areas such as supply, demand, distribution capacity, pricing, or any other shifting variables. A third kind of feedback loop aims to track the progress of entirely new processes. Such closed loops are more finite, with a specific project starting point and ending date. In this fast-changing business climate, no company can succeed by simply standing still. Management must adopt dynamic systems to measure incremental changes and make course corrections. Creating a feedback loop for each critical business function provides a powerful way to measure such changes and then react appropriately.