The Feedback Loop Changes Everything

From Alexandra Corbeil and Maxime Pineault

When conducting change, we work with a proven model that’s been tried and tested. However, this doesn’t mean that we can just push a button and sit back while our plans are flawlessly executed.

In fact, our model includes an Evolution phase (see CAPTE process chart below) that specifically calls for strict project monitoring, for two reasons:

  1. Making sure the change will be long-lasting, to avoid having to start over from scratch or going back to the old operational methods
  1. Encouraging continuous improvement while changes are implemented

Theoretically, monitoring the evolution of change is not a big challenge. However, things can get complicated when the locomotive of change is set in motion in large organizations, for example in a national company with multiple departments, lines of business, regional offices, on-the-road sales reps and thousands of other employees.

So how can you precisely evaluate the impact of your actions? How do you keep track of what’s happening on the front lines, so you can then improve the deployment of your change project?

A few months ago, we faced this problem with one of our clients. To make the necessary adjustments while changes were being implemented, we imagined a mechanism that would let us reach the various impacted stakeholders, address their concerns, and measure the effectiveness of our change management initiatives. Reaching them in “push system” mode allowed us to send the information back up the chain in “pull system” mode. What we had just created, in fact, was a feedback loop, which turned out to be an essential tool to better serve our client.

A RECIPE WITH TWO INGREDIENTS

Control Tower

Here are the two basic ingredients for a feedback loop: 

  1. Communication Forums – Scattered resources are often a major issue in times of change. For this reason, we wanted to avoid creating new meeting structures. Instead, we started by identifying existing communication forums within the organization, i.e. regional office visits from head office managers, team meetings, monthly territory manager meetings, etc. From that point on, we knew where and when to implement our “push system”.
  1. The Control Tower – It was essential for us to set up a control tower to ensure that information, reactions and concerns would make their way up the chain (i.e. “pull system”), so that the appropriate feedback could then be sent down the chain (“pull system”). The control tower keeps this up-and-down movement going at all times, with all antennas deployed.

This is exactly what we did. Our feedback loop took the form of an interdisciplinary team with one expert member (project lead, content expert or change management expert) for each pre-identified communication forum. Their roles were as follows:

  • Identifying the issues and concerns of various stakeholder groups and taking action specifically for them
  • Compiling all the concerns identified among the various stakeholder groups and converting them into change-management initiatives in order to ensure the plan’s ongoing adjustment

 RESULTS THAT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

 Our feedback loop accomplished its mission. Our change management was adapted in real time to the different concerns expressed on the ground, despite the fact that the company’s resources were geographically dispersed. This, in turn, ensured the long-term survival of the changes being deployed.    Furthermore, our feedback loop allowed our clients to intensify their ownership of the change, and to make it evolve by linking the planned activities to concrete grassroots results.

The benefits of this loop mechanism are not limited to the project life cycle. The two-way communication reflexes that are created within the organization can potentially be implemented at all operational levels, and then translate to concrete benefits.

For the sake of continuous improvement, if the context allows, don’t hesitate to set up your own feedback loop. It can really change everything!