Processing feedback is a crucial aspect of project management, one that can have a measurable impact on a team’s ability to achieve repeatable success. But soliciting and analyzing the comments from any project’s participants—end users, stakeholders, sponsors, champions, collaborators, etc.—brings with it the potential that some of those individuals won’t always have positive things to say.
Criticisms leveled at the team can sometimes be difficult to hear, especially if the project experienced issues the team wasn’t able to resolve quickly or to the organization’s advantage. Improving stakeholder satisfaction, however, requires that project management professionals take that negative feedback and use it to become better. A few strategies can make the process easier for everyone.
Don’t take it personally. First, it’s important that PMP®s view feedback—whether positive or negative—from a professional standpoint. This allows stakeholders to feel comfortable being candid and forthright in providing useful feedback, and it also gives PMP®s the right perspective to look objectively at where the team’s existing processes and protocols may not be working as well as they could. By stepping back and remembering that any concerns raised are more about practices than people, everyone can focus more clearly on finding ways to improve on the current system.
Approach the process with a genuine interest in improving. This goes hand in hand with viewing feedback on a professional, rather than a personal, level. Project teams need to be authentic in their desire to improve the Project Team’s performance and provide better customer service on future projects. It’s a mindset that will better enable you and your teammates to find the shortcomings in the processes you’re using now and devise ways to make them produce the results you and your stakeholders want.
Seek more information. The initial steps in the feedback process are rarely designed to capture the full scope of an individual’s concerns. Stakeholders’ time and system space are both typically limited. Knowing that any feedback is likely to be incomplete, PMP®s shouldn’t take negative comments at face value. Instead, it’s much more productive to ask the stakeholder if they’re willing to expand on their feedback. This allows the team to get a comprehensive picture of where lapses occurred and how any shortcomings can be addressed moving forward.
Ask for improvement ideas. What the team thinks will fix the problem in future projects may not match the remedies stakeholders would like to see implemented. Solicit suggestions from stakeholders on how they think the issues should be addressed. The team may discover solutions that hadn’t occurred to them, or they might find that end users and sponsors are amenable to some much simpler process changes than the team had expected.
Create a partnership to solve problems. One way to enhance the partnership between the Project Team and its customers—while also ensuring good buy-in for the chosen solution—is to work together to solve problems. Does the project team’s suggested strategy address stakeholders’ concerns? Do stakeholders have accurate expectations about how the proposed solution will be implemented? It’s much more effective to hammer out the details during the problem-solving phase rather than run into new problems during the next project.
Follow up with stakeholders during the next project. Instead of waiting for a routine user survey or other feedback tool to find out how stakeholders are feeling about the solutions you’ve implemented, work with them directly early in the project to see how things are going. Have the previous problems been resolved? Are issues being addressed more effectively this time around? Early intervention is often key to maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction and stakeholder support.