Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Tiffany St James: Setting boundaries on digital transformation feedback

Tiffany St James is one of the UK’s most experienced digital transformation specialists, the founder of Transmute and former Head of Public Participation for the UK Government. She is also NDA’s monthly columnist.

We know that 70% of digital transformation programmes fail and many successful ones also go over time and budget. Often these programmes get criticised for lack of clear communication and stakeholder involvement.

There are some obvious ways in which you can set up your governance from the beginning (or even implement during) that can give greater clarity to your teams to help keep your programme on time and budget.

One of those governance elements is setting boundaries on feedback.

Too often I have seen programmes delayed by endless spin cycles on processes and I want to help you avoid that.

There are five clear ways to set better boundaries when asking for critical feedback that ensures your programme is not derailed and your people have clarity on who, what and how to give feedback. Here are my top 5 ways to set boundaries.

1) Know your world: understand the culture you are operating in

This is particularly important if you are new to the programme, team or company. Identify if the culture of the country you are operating in has a consensus-led approach.

Understand that your viewpoint will be affected by your country of origin. Swedish and Dutch companies, for example, are generally more consensus-led than UK organisations, whereas the UK and the US are more directional from their leaders in their approach.

Typically, public and third-sector organisations of long-standing have a culture where everyone has a right to question most strategic moves. It can hamper progress so understand culturally if that exists.

2) Specify who can comment: define who has a say upfront

Do you want everyone in the organisation to give feedback on your strategy or just a group of people? Not everyone needs to have a say in your change programme and not all voices have to be equal.

If it’s just the leadership team, be clear about how they can get input, who from and in what time frame.  For example, “You have two weeks to gather input from your team to present at the next Transformation Meeting” and give the date.

3) Specify what good feedback looks like: define your ask

Have you ever had feedback that you cannot action? Perhaps people have given their opinion, but no clear route to action? It may be that there were no clear guidelines at the start.

Ensure that your programme has clear guidelines on what constitutes constructive criticism and that feedback should be specific, actionable and respectful.

Consider running a training session you roll out in advance of internal consultation or change programmes to help people give constructive feedback.

4) Give clarity on what you will take on board or not and why

Often organisations that do not define what or how they will take feedback on board suffer from internal criticism. More than that, if your people do not know what is happening with their feedback or believe that it will not be taken on board, they may not input at all. Getting diverse opinions and ideas is critical to successful programmes.

It’s OK to say that all feedback will be read but not all will be actioned. Give your objectives and frame how you will deal with the feedback.

For example, if you are looking at ways of improving a process or a system that exists, you could share that the ideas with the strongest benefits for customers will be prioritised.

5) Define the number of feedback loops: give clarity on the process

Set boundaries on the number of rounds of consultations. For example, we will ask for feedback in Month 10, prioritise and playback for one further round of feedback in Month 11 before we put this into production in Month 12. You will have initial input and one round of feedback to comment on.

So, look at your programme and revise your plan by outlining:

Know your world: do you have a culture of consensus?

Who can comment: who do you need feedback from and by when?

What does good feedback look like: do you have clear guidance?

What will you take on board: how and when will you take on feedback?

Define the number of feedback loops: how many rounds of feedback are there?