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FLOW OF FEEDBACK

This article centres on the failure of the organisation to get negative feedback, consequential failure to take remedial as well as preventive measures causing severe damage to the organisation and efforts to be taken by the organisation to get rid of the obstacles in getting negative feedback.

Negative feedbacks are actually positive feedback to negate the negative happenings in the organisation. So the feedback is to be looked in the proper perspective. The problem, the business entity faces, lies in its failure to differentiate Fact-finding Feedback (FFF) from Fault-finding feedback (FFF). All feedbacks are viewed as Fault-finding Feedback and so is the temptation to take disciplinary action against the offender at the time of taking remedial as well as preventative measures to arrest further occurrence of the fault. Business Organisations need to foster a culture to get Fact-Finding Feedback (FFF). The actions to be taken in response to a Fact-Finding Feedback are completely different from the actions for Fault-Finding Feedback.

How to foster a culture of Fact-Finding Feedback

The culture for Fact-Finding Feedback can be articulated in the organisation by inviting the feedback from anybody who can paste his feedback in the designated Billboard and the feedback do not cause harm to anybody in any way – be it financially, physically or emotionally.

Fact-Finding Feedbacks are informal communications in character. It is in addition to the formal communication channel for getting feedback. It can come from anybody – be it a superior, a sub-ordinate, a peer, or even from an outsider such as customer, supplier or any other stakeholder.

Here the main emphasis is on getting the knowledge about the happening of an incident which was not supposed to happen or non-happening of the incident which was supposed to happen. The perpetrators, of happening of the incident which was not supposed to happen or not happening of the incident which is supposed to happen, are secondary.

The treatment of all Fact-Finding Feedback should be the same. The actions to be taken in response to the feedback should not hurt anybody, in any way – be it economically, physically or emotionally. The management should not take any action against the offender. It is because of the reason that the management did not get the feedback through its own official channel of communication. So, no disciplinary action is to be taken against the offender even if the lapses are result of a wilful or negligent activity of the employee without any bonafide intention. Then only the Fact-Finding Feedback will pour in from all levels without any obstruction. The management will have to resist its temptation for taking disciplinary action with the consolation that it was running without this feedback. At the most, management can counsel the offending employee for not doing this type of damages again. An employee, who commits a mistake more than once, is either doing it wilfully or he is an inefficient person. Management may take disciplinary action against the offending employee if it is evident that he is a habitual offender and there is no other way left to the management without taking disciplinary action to arrest occurrence of damages repetitively.

A pertinent question that arises is the reason for failure of the management to get information about the occurrence of the lapses through its formal communication channel. This happens due to dilution of administrative system in the organisation. One physical lapse occurs – the person responsible for taking necessary steps to arrest recurrence of such lapses also does not take the required steps, the person, responsible for taking administrative actions against the lapses, does not take required actions – his superior also ignores the lapses committed by the subordinate i.e. he does not take any administrative action against the lapses committed by his subordinate and the lapses are compounded. Failure to take action against an administrative lapse also occurs. Administrative lapse has a multiplier effect – the higher the level, more devastating is the consequences. If a man can get scot-free by committing nuisances repetitively, there is a failure in the administrative system in the organisation and that organisation will have to pay the price for the same. Management will have to be careful so that administrative lapses do not occur at any levels of the organisation.

Columbia space shuttle disaster of 2003 starkly illustrates how devastating the consequences can be.

During the shuttle’s liftoff on January 16, 2003, a chunk of insulating foam broke off. A number of midlevel engineers were concerned about the potential damage caused by this. The foam blew a 10-inch hole in the left wing as all would learn later – but their several requests for images that would have likely revealed the damage, were ignored by senior managers, thereby silencing their concerns. Sixteen days later, on February 1, 2003, the aircraft disintegrated during re-entry killing all seven crew members on board.

The final report on the disaster contains this harsh assessment: “NASA’s organisational culture had as much to do with this incident as foam did”. What the investigators said of NASA’s culture – that it was characterised by “organisational barriers that prevented effective communication of critical safety information and stifled professional difference of opinion” – could, with little alteration, be said of many organisations across many industries.

 

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