ABZ’s of Communication for PM’s and Techies… F: Feedback and Frequency

Communication accounts for so much of our daily lives that it’s a mistake to overlook the importance of getting our messages and our delivery right – the first time.   Good projects begin with good communication!

F= Feedback and Frequency


We learn about feedback from an early age when mothers/fathers ask “What did I just say?  Didn’t you hear what I told you?”  and we formulate a response that we hope will cover up that we were not actually listening.  In corporate communication, feedback is an important part – it confirms that our message was received (or not!)

Feedback can be informal or formal, direct or indirect, and with or without emotion.  It’s not feedback that should worry us, it’s the lack of it.  There is always feedback (a reaction) when a message is received – it just may not make it back to your ears!

We need to plan feedback loops into our communication (kind of like planning quality in):  Did our message arrive? If it did, was it still all together (intact)? Was it understandable? Was it high quality (guidelines for quality come in Q: Quality)? What was the reaction?  Did it convey the information we intended?  Did it leave the right impression?

Think of feedback like a return lob in a game of tennis.  Feedback reflects that the message was received and volleyed back.  Like tennis, the return itself could be stronger or include “spin” that the original serve did not.

Step 1 (and the most important) in Feedback is to confirm that a message WAS received.  If the ball (message) stops short of the goal (the tennis ball hits the net or the message doesn’t reach the receiver) it needs to be served again or recrafted into a new message.  If there is no feedback – you need to first confirm that the message (email especially!) was received.  It is a good idea to follow-up using a second media (i.e., a phone call) to confirm.

If the message is delivered by newsletter, presentation, broadcast email or other mass medium, and you receive ZERO feedback, you may want to contact a random sample of receivers to see if it got to anyone – before mass redistribution.  See the Communication Model in C= Clarity and Consistency, and Confidence for a visual depiction of the Feedback Loop.

Note that when you need specific feedback from recipient(s) – make sure you ask for it when you send the original message.  Be sure to include:

  • What response you need (comments or approval or simple acknowledgement or something else);
  • How to respond (by email, phone call, in person, etc.);
  • When you need it; and
  • The urgency of their participation (e.g., your response is mandatory because this will become the new process; or if you have comments please send them by date…).

Communication without a feedback loop can be thought of as negligent – make sure you follow-up to make sure what you sent matches the message(s) received.  Makes sure you “close the door” on the communication cycle to avoid misinterpretation and potential damage control later.


Basic marketing principles talk about the message, the reach and the frequency.  The message content is the first aspect (what to say and how to say it); the reach is the second (audience analysis of who needs to know what); and the frequency is the third (how often does the message need to be said?)

With frequency the rule of 3 applies:  it takes a minimum of three separate exposures to the same message before we start to digest its content.  Think of a television commercial – the 1st time you see it, it doesn’t even register, the 2nd time you say “I think I’ve seen that before” and the 3rd time you say “Oh, now I get what it’s all about”.  The same holds true with corporate communications – remember the rule of 3.  (And don’t forget the 3 learning styles: Visual, Audio, and Kinesthetic; if you want to reach an entire population.)

To your successful projects!


Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======


2 responses to “ABZ’s of Communication for PM’s and Techies… F: Feedback and Frequency

  1. What do you do with people who are like teenagers and have “selective hearing”, i.e. they only hear what they want to hear? If it isn’t the crisis of the day, it is ignored. That drives me up a wall….


  2. Pingback: ABZ’s of Communication for PMs and Techies… M: The four M’s of Messages | Musings About Software Development

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