40. Continuous Feedback

With a multitude of tools available for constant and continuous interaction with each other, why should the annual review wait for its once-a-year drudgery?  Not many (no one?) likes them anyhow.

Feedback is important—vitally important for the high-performing organization.  But what good does it do an employee when she finds out six months from now that her performance on the new business plan was exemplary?  What good does the staffer gain from a constructive critique of his less-than-satisfactory interaction with patients?  In either case, little.

Feedback that is instantaneous (or at least within a workable time line) allows a co-worker to improve a lacking skill (with the organization’s help, of course), especially with the insufficient performance as an example fresh in her memory.  It notifies the up-and-comer that his new ideas are appreciated (and implementable).  Think about how much easier nurses could offer helpful critiques of physicians.  Or how much easier physicians could do the same for administrators.  Examples given not needed: imagine the possibilities throughout the organization.

Rypple (currently in private beta) has developed a platform to institute continuous review.  Its service allows users to ask for feedback from co-workers.  From Springwise:

Employees can use the system for specific concerns, for example the impact of a presentation, or for more general issues such as areas of performance to focus on in future. Questions can be tagged with keywords, helping monitor progress in specific areas over time. Rypple’s digital interface lets it foster open and honest responses that might not be given face to face: feedback can be given anonymously, only to be viewed by the person who requested it.

Of course a digital platform isn’t necessary for continuous feedback, but it certainly makes it easier (and perhaps more comfortable for all involved).  There’s room for improvement in the model, too: we can’t expect that every organization stakeholder will be so in-tune with their performance as to always be asking for feedback (overload?) or that everyone will be so engaged with the initiative as to actually ask for feedback.

We can make it clear, however, that continous feedback is important in our provision of quality health care.  Continuous feedback is a component of outstanding communication.  Communicating outstandingly with each other is a fundamental component of an open (read: transparency on steroids) health care organization.

Principle #40: We’re opening the communication lines (all of them).  We’ll talk to each other to help.  Helping each other improve will not only improve our culture, it will improve the quality of care we provide.

One thought on “40. Continuous Feedback

  1. Hi Drew:

    Great post. I’m the CEO of Rypple. I’m glad you’ve highlighted the value of continuous feedback. I’m also excited that you’ve noticed how Rypple can be helpful in the health care context. We’ve got a number of health care professionals using Rypple already and they tell us that they’re quite pleased with the results.

    You’re right to notice that the people in high performing teams are constantly learning – and constantly getting feedback. We agree that quick, specific and frequent feedback is incredibly important to learning. As you said, when you find out about a small thing right away, you can take action to improve right away. Here’s a link to a recent Harvard Business blog about feedback and learning: http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/erickson/2008/11/the_double_meaning_of_feedback.html on the topic.

    Your point about the limitations of a digital platform are also helpful. As you note, a digital platform can make it much easier to get and give feedback but it can’t completely replace human interaction. We agree. We think of Rypple as a supplement, not a replacement.

    You’re also right that not everyone wants to (or is aware to) ask for feedback. Different cultures, background, and generations respond differently. That’s ok; Rypple is voluntary. Rypple simply opens a channel for those who do want to ask. Perhaps more importantly (from the perspective of cultural change) Rypple use makes it clear to the organization that people really do want constructive, continuous feedback .

    We’d be happy to give you access to the beta, so drop me a line if you are interested. We’d excited to see where Rypple goes in the health care context.

    Warm regards,



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