The value of gathering feedback and debriefing right now

by | Apr 8, 2020 | Effective Teams, Innovation, Leadership

We have made adjustments in our organizational and personal lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations have implemented remote working, modified services, and developed new products. Some have fundamentally changed how they operate. I have had some disappointing experiences in recent weeks with retailers, but I have also had some great experiences. 

I wonder if organizations are taking time to ask the following questions:

  1. How are these changes going?
  2. What are we doing well?
  3. What lessons have we learned?
  4. What changes do we need to make?

When I facilitate meetings, I try to spend time at the end debriefing the meeting as a group. Doug Sundheim wrote: “Debriefing is a structured learning process designed to continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed.” The debriefing provides the group an opportunity to reflect on their work together and identify ways to improve their performance in the future. In addition, I use a debriefing during and at the end of projects and processes. 

K-12 schools and universities across the country are adjusting to providing virtual instruction. Many have limited experience with e-learning, and some have never done it before. 

Higher education has struggled in recent years as a result of increasing tuition rates, low unemployment, and decreasing numbers of high school graduates. Many private universities will especially feel the economic consequences of the pandemic. Families will be forced to make difficult financial decisions due to decreased wages or economic uncertainty. 

We all know that retaining an existing customer is easier than gaining a new customer. As an organization makes major changes in response to a crisis, it needs to take time to debrief on how well things are going. As Sundheim suggested, we need to “continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed.”

If you’re a K-12 school or university, are you asking your students and families how well virtual learning is going? This feedback will be critical for satisfaction rates, retention rates, relationship building, and quality learning experiences.

If you’re a restaurant or retailer that has adjusted to curbside pick ups, are you asking your customers about the quality of their experience? This feedback will be critical for satisfaction rates, ease of experience, customer retention, and attracting new customers.

If you’re a company that has moved to increased remote working environments, are you asking your employees about their job satisfaction? This feedback will be critical for retaining top talent, employee productivity, and customer service. 

If you’re a nonprofit who is dependent on donor support, are you asking your donors about their experiences with the organization? This feedback will be critical for donor retention, prioritization of services, and future initiatives.

In recent weeks, we have administered surveys and have been surprised to receive higher response rates than we typically anticipate. Some people are busier now, but many have more time than usual to provide valuable input. This is an opportunity for organizations right now. Consider asking for overall satisfaction levels and opportunities to improve, especially when you add new or change existing services. After you gather input, your team can use the debriefing questions listed above.

Strong organizations will gather feedback and make adjustments to ensure high satisfaction levels, customer retention rates, improve relationships, and boost productivity levels. During difficult times, people will remember whether you made their lives easier or more difficult. The organizations that are willing to listen now will be stronger in the near and long term. 

We help organizations gather feedback and facilitate planning processes to ensure future success. There can be advantages of utilizing an outside resource in the midst of a crisis. Please contact us for more information.

We wish you health and happiness. Stay well.

Sundheim, D. (2015, July 2). Debriefing: A simple tool to help your team tackle tough problems. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: