Feedback is important but we need to make sure it’s real, that the people we seek feedback from are talking openly and that they’re being listened to.
The relationships we build are so important to us. A good relationship is built on trust, openness and confidence. To achieve that we need good communication so we can have grown-up conversations about the good, the bad and the ugly.
Product Owners and Stakeholders are the future of the project or the continuous development that we’re involved with. For them to have the confidence that what’s being built is the right thing, that they can change requirements further down the line, for them to know that risks are being dealt with and that spend is being kept under control, we need to talk regularly, to find out their concerns. It’s our job to take onboard their feedback, to deal with their concerns and leave them free to concentrate on their users and the future of the build.
We could gather feedback using a webform, and email or through an app but those are all very impersonal. It’s far better to meet with people, to have face-to-face conversations, to talk through current issues, to understand what’s keeping them awake at night, to know what they’re bragging about (so we can do more of that), and for us to monitor their feedback and show how we’re acting upon that and improving.
A meeting should be held at least once per sprint between the Delivery Manager and the Product Owner. If possible, involve a project stakeholder.
Delivery Manager Runs the meeting, asks questions that open up the conversation with the Product Owner, discusses actions from previous meetings, discusses risks, budget, takes notes and records actions.
Product Owner and Stakeholder Provide a frank appraisal of the project and the delivery, their feelings, confidence, worries, concerns, wants and needs.
This meeting is about listening and giving confidence to the client. Be prepared:
What is the current status of the project?
What are the current priorities?
What are the priorities for the upcoming sprints?
What risks are we dealing with?
How is the budget?
What concerns or questions does the team have?
What actions are we dealing with from previous meetings and what is their status?
This is not a structured meeting, it needs to be less formal but effective at the same time. This is a meeting over a coffee, over lunch or even with a beer. Use your understanding of the client to pick the most appropriate setting.
Actions and details from the meeting should be recorded in the sprint summary document so that everything is open to the team, everything is recorded and we can review at the end of each sprint as well as mid-sprint.
Guide the meeting, ask questions to open up conversations about key elements. Some examples:
How are you feeling?
Is there anything about the project that’s keeping you awake at night?
What are your thoughts about the progress so far?
How are you feeling about the current priorities?
Any thoughts about the speed of the development?
Anything you’d like to discuss about the team or any individuals?
Are you comfortable with the plans we have in place to manage the risks we’ve identified?
Are there any risks that you expect us to encounter in the future?
Reporting and Control
Are the goals and objectives still relevant?
We’ve been supplying you with a sprint summary at the end of each sprint and an updated budget spreadsheet. Is that giving you the information you need? Is there anything else that would help?
Are you happy with the state of the product backlog? Do you need any support?
Are you feeling in control of the project?
What’s your overall feeling about the project? Good? Okay? Unhappy?
What would generally make you feel happier or more in control?
Are there any concerns or comments from the stakeholders?
At the end of the meeting reiterate the key points discussed in the meeting, the actions you have notes and explain what the priorities are. Record the actions and circulate them as soon as possible.