So, a quick youth sports story to illustrate a business management point.
Pintail Solutions president Jason Bork related a story:
When kids are learning to pitch for the first time in youth baseball, they will throw as hard as they can. The ball will go above their head, behind them, in front of them, and into the dirt. Simply put - it’s everywhere. In younger leagues, there are 5 pitches, unless a batter hits one of them, a coach will step in to pitch three, presumably of better quality.
At this age, it’s not about throwing strikes, it’s about the coach finding the bat with a pitch. You almost have to find the kid’s natural swing, whether that’s high or low.
So Bork continued that he was pitching to his own son in a game.
Bork's third pitch is up and out of the strike zone. Although it is not perfect, the batter – his son – lets the final pitch go by. His son then drops the bat and trots back to the dugout. It’s the last pitch, he’s out.
After the game, his son was asked by Bork, “when you were at bat, did you know that was the third pitch?” Aware, he replies with, “yeah, that’s why I ran back to the dugout.”
Bork then asked, “Well, if you knew that it was the third pitch, why didn’t you swing the bat?”
His son replies, “it was high, I don’t hit high pitches well”.
When you consider feedback, historically, he doesn’t hit high pitches. That’s what he tells himself, and it’s probably true. Feedback is what limits his behavior.
So, the next question Bork asked was, “what was your goal?”
He thought long and hard, and he said, “my goal was to get on base”.
Which is a noble and great goal Bork thought. He then asked, “if that was the goal, what should you have done since it was your last chance to get on base?”
His son replied with, “I should have swung the bat.”
When we ask for straight feedback without any contextual direction of looking forward, everyone will react instinctively to what they're used to, without being analytical. Shifting that mindset to "feedforward", should change your "feedback".
At Pintail Solutions, we are helping businesses reposition around looking forward.
We realized we need to ask companies questions that involve looking forward. We are working through critical change management and this is what we're trying to achieve: better integrative plans, better understanding of handoffs, and better management of overall execution.