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How to give effective project feedback in 7 steps

Team Asana contributor imageTeam Asana
February 11th, 2024
8 min read
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As a project manager, you should always be looking for new tactics and techniques to improve your feedback skills. In this article, we’ll break down different project feedback strategies, the “do’s” and “don’ts” of project feedback, and offer some examples of effective project feedback in the workplace.

When you’re new to giving project feedback, it can seem like an incredibly daunting task. However, like any skill, giving effective feedback can be improved and polished over time. 

Project feedback is a conversation about a team member’s performance that should result in a clear next step toward their improvement. This type of feedback is typically shared by a project manager, who may or may not be the team members’ direct manager. By focusing on specific project details—rather than broad-scale career-level feedback—you can build trust between yourself and your project team. When done well, project feedback can be instrumental in improving deliverables and fast-tracking your team’s professional growth.  

The seven steps below offer some effective project feedback examples to help you nail the feedback process and set your team up for success. 

1. Choose the right time

Timing is a key consideration when offering project feedback. In order to get this right, ask your team members when they prefer to get feedback. Do they like to get feedback immediately? Would they rather meet late in the week to discuss ongoing projects? 

When giving feedback, imagine you’re leading a brainstorm. Encourage your team to bring ideas and share their thoughts during the feedback session. A well-timed and planned project feedback session can generate new ideas that drive the project forward.  

Strive for a healthy balance of face-to-face feedback and asynchronous communication, or offline communication. You might think face-to-face feedback is always better, but some team members prefer to see feedback in writing first, and then talk about it. Ask team members if they have a preference, and how you can create a positive feedback experience for them. This is especially relevant in the era of remote work, where you might not see team members in person every day.

Free 1:1 meeting template

2. Use the correct type of feedback

Knowing what type of feedback to give is half the battle of the feedback process. Different scenarios call for different types of feedback, and as a team lead, you need to recognize what type is most appropriate for the situation. 

Not every type of feedback is relevant or even appropriate for you to give. If you’re leading a project team but not actually managing the people you work with, you may want to steer clear of some heavier types of feedback, like performance evaluations. On the flip side, if you’re simultaneously the project lead and the team manager, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to bundle project, professional, and performance feedback, or separate those into different feedback sessions. 

The 6 types of feedback

[inline illustration] Types of feedback (infographic)
  • Formal feedback: This type of feedback is appropriate for planned meetings that you specifically designate for feedback, like quarterly reviews. Both sides should know the conversation topics and come prepared with thoughts and questions. 

  • Informal feedback: Informal feedback can range from offering kudos on a job well done to making a quick edit on a project. This type of project feedback is trickier because it can be spontaneous, so consider your setting before giving informal feedback. 

  • Positive feedback: Positive feedback is just as vital as constructive feedback. You should ensure you’re praising team members for impressive work. By doing so, you’ll remind your team that you notice both the positives and the negatives. 

  • Encouragement feedback: Similar to positive feedback, you can use encouragement feedback to give your team member a pick-me-up. Have they been working through a difficult project or seem a little burned out? Remind them of their value and how appreciated they are. It’ll go a long way. 

  • Forward feedback: Forward-looking feedback focuses on future solutions rather than past corrections. This type of feedback is more of a proactive approach for improvement based on past observations. For example, if a team member is struggling with time management, you might want to recommend a calendar organization tool rather than dwelling on a late project. 

  • Constructive feedback: Constructive criticism is the best type of feedback for helping team members grow. Offering constructive criticism involves analyzing a project, identifying an opportunity for improvement, and providing a detailed recommendation on how to improve.

Read: 15 types of employee performance reviews (with templates and examples)

3. Be direct

Being direct doesn’t mean being harsh. Rather, it shows you’re invested in helping your team members grow. 

Try to avoid the feedback sandwich. This is an approach where you “sandwich” constructive criticism between praise. Instead, be direct with your feedback. This will help foster healthy collaboration amongst your team. Being direct doesn’t mean being brutally honest. Always include examples, and share your feedback in “I” statements. This helps you focus on specific details and how you perceived them, so you and your team member can focus on identifying and implementing solutions to the feedback.

4. Give specific recommendations for improvement

The best kind of project feedback is actionable, meaning that you give the team member a recommendation that is applicable to future projects. Giving recommendations is truly what makes the criticism constructive—rather than destructive.

The “why” in project feedback is key. Say you’re glancing at an email that a team member is about to send and you recommend altering the language. In this case, be sure to explain the reason you structure emails a certain way, or why you avoid certain words. 

5. Encourage upward feedback

For team members, a feedback session should end with a thorough understanding of how they can improve. Therefore, as a project manager, you should always open the floor for questions after giving feedback. 

You should also be gauging positive feedback on project manager responsibilities, like timeliness and clarity. Remember that feedback goes both ways, and you should always be encouraging upward feedback from your team. When getting project manager feedback, don’t be afraid to ask questions like:

  • Was my feedback helpful?

  • Is there anything else I can provide in future feedback?

  • Is there a specific way you prefer to get feedback?

Check with team members regularly to see if you can improve how you give feedback.

6. Follow up with a recap

You should always follow up with a recap of big takeaways after formal feedback meetings and performance reviews.  A recap will help both you and the team member digest information better. An example follow-up might look like this: 

“Hi ____,

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today regarding your performance. To give a quick recap of the major takeaways, we discussed: 

  • Point A

  • Point B

  • Point C

  • Point D

If any of this is unclear, please let me know. And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or feedback for me. 

Thanks for all your hard work. 

Have a great day!” 

An email like this confirms that both sides are on the same page and that all the feedback is understood. 

7. Encourage continuous feedback

Once you master the art of giving effective feedback, it won’t feel so much like “feedback” anymore, but instead an ongoing collaboration between yourself and your team. 

Whenever you meet with individual team members, ask questions about what’s on their plate or if any projects have been particularly challenging. These types of questions will tell you if team members are overloaded with work or could benefit from more internal training. Asking these simple questions will give you huge insights into your team’s happiness and productivity. 

By following these steps, you'll begin to see project feedback baked into your day-to-day process.

Free 1:1 meeting template

Effective and ineffective feedback strategies

Project managers employ a number of techniques and initiatives when providing project feedback to their teams.

[inline illustration] Feedback strategies (infographic)

Do, Try, and Consider framework

The Do, Try, and Consider framework breaks down project feedback into three different categories, each intended to elicit different responses from project team members. 

  • “Do” feedback: This type of feedback is mandatory and you will use it for projects that have larger implications for the organization. As a result, administer “do” feedback sparingly, and only when the impact of the project goes beyond your team or has irreversible effects. 

  • “Try” feedback: “Try” feedback suggests a possible next step for a project but leaves the decision-making up to the team. Examples include exploring potential downsides to a project or digging deeper into research. Use this strategy when you think the deliverable is good but could be stronger or more polished. 

  • “Consider” feedback: The most empowering of the three, “consider” feedback simply asks your team to ponder alternate ways of thinking. Whether or not your team elects to take your suggestion to heart is completely up to them. 

McKinsey feedback model

The management consulting firm McKinsey & Company designed this feedback model to add structure to project feedback so it can easily flow both upwards and downwards. The McKinsey model states that feedback should be:

  • Specific 

  • Fact-based

  • Less personal 

  • Irrefutable 

  • Actionable 

Using the attributes above, you should structure your feedback the following way: 

“When you did [X], it made me feel [Y]. In the future, I would recommend that you do [Z].” 

By combining a specific action with a resulting feeling and suggested reaction, you’re able to incorporate all the elements above. While this language applies mostly to conflict resolution, you can tweak it to your specific feedback needs.

SMART feedback

You’ve likely heard of SMART goals already, but did you know you can apply these principles to project feedback too? As a refresher, the acronym stands for: 

  • Specific

  • Measurable 

  • Achievable 

  • Realistic  

  • Time-bound

All these attributes relate to constructive feedback, as it should be specific to the project, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. 

The next time you give project feedback, run through the SMART acronym in your head first to make sure you’re checking all the boxes. If something’s off, you may need to tweak your feedback strategy. 

The COIN method

COIN stands for Context, Observation, Impact, and Next steps. The model is helpful in structuring feedback sessions so they feel less confrontational and more constructive. The process breaks down into 4 steps: 

  1. Context: The “context” step allows you to set the scene and explain why the conversation is happening. In this step, emphasize the end goal of the project so there’s an understanding of why the feedback is important. 

  2. Observation: Next, tell your team member what you’ve observed in their work. This can consist of both positive feedback and constructive criticism, but be sure to stay direct throughout. 

  3. Impact: The “impact” stage digs deeper into the value of the feedback. Explain how your suggestions will help drive the project closer to the stated goal. 

  4. Next steps: Perhaps the most important phase, the “next steps” should outline some actionable ways for the team member to improve. Try to be as specific as possible with these, like encouraging collaboration with another team or recommending a new tool to try. 

Benefits of feedback in project management

Project feedback is important because it expedites processes, helps team members grow, leads to stronger results, and can help build trust amongst teams. 

Implementing a regular feedback loop into your day-to-day operations guarantees increased productivity and sharper deliverables. Read on to learn about the benefits of a feedback cycle for your team. 

[inline illustration] Benefits of project feedback (infographic)

Saves time in the long-run

If project feedback is included in your day-to-day, then you won’t have to worry about projects getting off track due to revisions. Including feedback throughout the project life cycle will help limit oversights and keep workflows running smoothly. By consistently checking for quality, you’ll avoid setbacks due to large revisions.

Read: 18 time management tips, strategies, and quick wins to get your best work done

Improves team culture

Communication and collaboration are at the heart of good project feedback. If your team is regularly giving feedback to each other, you’ll notice a tighter-knit culture within your team and working environment. And an added bonus? Team members will have insight into each other’s projects, thus helping them generate new ideas for their individual work. 

Creates a better end product

When it comes to creating a successful product, the more minds, the better. Project feedback allows for more brainstorming and collaboration in the creation process, which in turn will always lead to a strong end result.  

Fuels professional growth

Providing good and constructive feedback can do wonders for junior team members trying to sharpen their skills and reach different milestones in their careers. When done well, project feedback should teach the recipient something broader about what success looks like on the team. This knowledge is vital in spurring professional growth. 

Leads to clearer communication

As a team lead, you set the precedent for communication amongst your team. If you deliver clear and honest feedback on a regular basis, you’ll notice this trickle down into your team’s everyday workplace communication

Communication is an integral part of any company culture, so it’s imperative that you model clear communication through your feedback. 

Amplify performance with project feedback

Regular feedback is key when it comes to producing strong results. Not only does feedback ensure quality in deliverables, but it also allows constant collaboration and shared insights. Implementing feedback into the project life cycle will work wonders in your team’s process and professional growth.

Free 1:1 meeting template

It’s never too late to implement a feedback loop into your day-to-day operations. If giving regular project feedback is a new step for your team, a work management tool like Asana can help you create an action plan and get your feedback strategy off the ground.

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