Client Feedback Tool
  • What is your ‘best project’ story?

    Posted on August 13th, 2014 Darren Smith No comments
    What is your 'best project' story?

    I had been working with the leaders of this firm for several months on the benefits of collaboration on project schedule, budget, and team satisfaction. We had shared ‘best project’ stories and agreed those were the projects where everything went smoothly and all members of the team just seemed to do what needed to be done to create a positive outcome. They wanted to create ‘best project stories’ on all their projects so they asked team members working on one of their large projects this question. 

    “How would you rate the overall collaboration on your team?”

    They found that almost 50% of those responding said the team’s collaboration was about what they expected. It met their expectations. Another roughly 19% exceeded expectations. Good news.

    But the leaders focused in on the top 27%. They wanted to understand what about the experience for these individuals had them rate the team’s collaboration as “Exceptional” or “Excellent”? For these team members, this was one of the ‘best project stories’. The leaders wanted to understand the behavior, quantify it (if possible), and spread it around like peanut butter to the other members of their project teams.Collaboration

    I worked with the leaders to dig deeper. They spoke with team members to better understand what, for them, made the project feel more collaborative than they expected. When we pulled together the information, we recognized the team had set up Rules of Engagement. Of course, they didn’t use that label, but their discussions and actions had the same impact. They managed their team interactions effectively and efficiently and created a positive experience for the team overall.

    So what did they do, and how can you (and they) spread these behaviors around?

    Rules of Engagement are the operational and relational rules that create ‘best project’ stories. Although oversimplified, the difference between the two are that operational rules provide team accountability and relational rules provide team strength.

    Behind operational rules is the idea that for a project to run smoothly rules must be established? How will communication be handled, deadlines be met, and deliverables reviewed. What are the rewards for the individual of adhering to those rules? What are the consequences if they do not? Think about a project that ran over budget (or schedule), did it have operational rules in place? Was there a breakdown in any of the rules? Were there consequences to the individual(s) involved?

    Relational rules serve a different purpose. Getting the relational rules right means identifying the skills and talents needed to make your project run smoothly (and profitably)? Then, take that knowledge and put together the strongest possible team of individuals you can. And, for those of you with multiple office locations, don’t forget that the skills and talents you need may not be sitting right in front of you. Be sure the person’s role on the team will allow them to use their talents. If your project is complex, it is not only a good idea to have someone whose talents include organization on the team, they must serve in a role where they can bring that expertise to the project.

    Learn more about using Rules of Engagement on your next project. Click here to download a 50-minute webinar that will increase the likelihood that all of your projects will run smoothly (and more profitably).

    Darren Smith (founder and CEO of CIMA Strategic) is a collaboration subject matter expert. He helps successful executives in design, construction, and healthcare elevate their leadership and energize their strategy & business development implementation through collaboration. Darren has conducted business in 20 countries across 10 industries. His clients include HKS Architects, The Society of Petroleum Engineers, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Toyota. 

  • Feedback, Trust, and Anonymity

    Posted on September 1st, 2010 No comments
    Feedback, Trust, and Anonymity

    One of my guilty pleasures is making sure I catch Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon every morning.  Today’s is genius (at least, for those of us in the business of feedback).  In three panes, Adams succinctly captures the challenges and pitfalls of so many efforts to collect feedback.

    Scott Adams' Dilbert - Anonymous Feedback

    Anonymous surveys that collect demographic or statistical information can be very useful.  However, surveys collecting feedback – particularly when that feedback about a service – are challenged greatly when attempted anonymously.

    Fundamentally, the goal of collecting feedback is to understand his unique preferences and adjust your processes to fit his style accordingly.  Feedback of this nature is inherently personal and unique.  Providing a service (whether it be managing employees like the Pointy Haired Boss, or providing engineering expertise to a client) is not just a technical proposition.  Services are provided by people to people.  And since we’re all different and have individual preferences and approaches, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology.

    Understanding this concept unveils the first challenge of anonymous feedback.  When no name is attached to the feedback, it can’t directly benefit the respondent.   When you receive anonymous feedback, and 99 out of 100 people love the way you do something, how much effect does the one dissenter have on your approach?  You aren’t going to change everything for one person.  However, if you knew who that one person was, you could adjust the process just for him (assuming it made business sense to do so).

    Secondly, anonymous feedback demonstrates real challenges with trust.  The respondent can’t trust you to actually do anything about the feedback given (because, after all, you don’t know who gave it).  Or, he doesn’t trust the actual anonymity of the feedback.  With all the tracking and tricks of technology today, how often do you really believe your anonymous feedback is truly a secret?  Worse, what if you ask for feedback anonymously, and (without trying to) you figure out who gave challenging information.  Now, you really want to respond, and fix the problem – but doing so is going to violate the “trust” you offered the client by offering an anonymous survey in the first place.

    But what about the good anonymity provides?  Won’t my clients be more honest?

    Actually, you can get great, honest feedback, and get more of it – if the right person asks the right questions – to the right person at the right time.  Therein lies the challenge of building a great feedback process.  The most important aspect of collecting feedback from clients is to be sure the feedback is about the client – not about you.  If you collect feedback  in a manner that unveils the client’s preferences, and you respond by specifically helping the client more according to his expectations, trust is created.  When you prove to the client that feedback matters, and that you act upon it, there is no need for anonymity to get honest feedback.

    That is the paradigm where the healthiest relationships are developed and were lasting client loyalty is built.

  • The Feedback Attitude

    Posted on January 12th, 2010 2 comments
    The Feedback Attitude

    A friend of a friend found me on LinkedIn and passed along a resume, looking for a position as a web designer.  While we weren’t hiring for that position, I took a look at the resume.  To be quite candid, it was pretty awful.

    I’m in the business of feedback, so I replied with some friendly but strong criticism.  I offered it as feedback – information to be processed, with no intent to hurt or offend.  I took time to highlight some of the good points, but spent most of my words identifying problem areas.   The reply I received could have been one of indignation, defensiveness, anger, or any other counter-productive reaction.  Instead, I got probably the best response I could have.

    Ouch!  But thank you! 🙂

    That’s the subject line of the email I received in reply.  What a great response!  In four words, two punctuation marks, and an emoticon this young woman managed to set the entire mood for our (still ongoing) dialog.  She accepted that challenges in her work exist, and acknowledged the effort (and even pain) needed to fix them.  She expressed honest gratitude for identifying issues for her to work on.  She also set a tone of friendly collaboration – probably the most important reaction to have when receiving tough feedback.  Before reading her response, I knew she was open to ideas, and willing to work with me to improve.

    I appreciate your feed back and will work on it…

    If you still want to help me organize my resume, etc, I am all ears….

    Thanks for the insight.  I know you are right, I think I need someone to literally get in my face and prove it, instead of sugar coating it like people have been.

    Within the email, she again thanked me for feedback.  Instead of defending why she did things her way, opened the door to further feedback, correction, and adjustment.

    Not only has she set a tone of collaboration, but she also diffused any fear or anxiety on my part about giving feedback.  Since I had never met this woman before, it took quite a bit of courage to provide feedback.  I really wanted to help, but also wanted to avoid hurting her feelings, or causing her any more anxiety when she’s already out of work.  Instead, her reply opened the door wide open to mutually honest communication.  What I thought would be a one-time note with some suggestions turned into a week-long exercise to build a great resume.   I have been able to share my opinions openly and without fear of reprisal.

    Now, I feel invested in this woman’s success.  I want to be a part of that.  Why?  Because her resume, and by extension, her process of finding a job, is now a part of me and my process.  I feel some ownership of what she’s built, and thus I feel connected by proxy to her eventual employment (and success).

    When your clients give you feedback, they earn the same kind of ownership.  Engage a client who has given you feedback with a proactive, collaborative, and kind attitude and you will tend to get more feedback!  As you work with your client to tweak the processes and methods used to deliver services, these revised methods become your clients methods too.  He becomes invested, not just financially, but at a deeper level as well.  No one wants to see their own work or efforts fail.  It’s natural to want to win, to be right, and to succeed.  The more you can adopt processes and methods that match your clients preferences, the more he will want you to succeed.  Your success becomes his success.

    Can you imagine a business where all your clients want you to succeed?  Where your clients are your biggest advocates?  Imagine what this attitude shift will bring when it’s time to send invoices, or raise your fee structure, or request a contract addendum for additional services or a change order.  Instead of arm wrestling over details, you have a client engaged with you on a deeper level.  And since he was fundamentally a part of the process that created the need for billings, your ability to recover fair and rewarding compensation is secure.

    Ask for feedback!  Then respond openly and engage your clients in the solutions that follow.  Mutual success is not far behind.

    As for the resume, it has gone from something that would very quickly hit my recycle bin, to something I would even pass along – not because of her skills or experience, but because of the process she used to improve.  That’s the kind of person I want to work with.

  • Johari Window, Part II

    Posted on September 21st, 2009 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Johari Window, Part II

    I blogged about the Johari Window a few months ago here. In summary, the Johari Window is a very simple and quick exercise that any two (or more) people can engage to give and receive feedback quickly, simply, and openly.  I’ve recently come across two online implementations that are fun and easy to use.

    For those social media fans out there, you can use the Facebook application to share feedback with your friends and associates.  What you might learn about yourself is worth the effort.

    If you don’t do the Facebook thing, you can use a stand-alone web version.  No registration or hoops required, but it takes a bit more work to invite others to participate.

    If you haven’t already, experiment with the Johari Window with some friends, family, and/or coworkers.  After filling out the form and comparing notes, a discussion to understand the results may prove even more enlightening.

    Ask for and give feedback daily!

  • The Best Questions to Ask – Deliverables and Relationships

    Posted on April 17th, 2009 Mike Phillips 2 comments
    The Best Questions to Ask - Deliverables and Relationships
    The most effective type of client feedback covers a wide variety of issues related to the efforts that a professional services firm makes for their clients. In order to be useful, the feedback must also accurately capture the clients’ perception of how the service-providing firm performed relative to the client expectations. This is a critical aspect for feedback to be able to help a firm understand their client and how to quickly create the maximum value. If the firm did not meet the expectations of their client, a problem is created that if unnoticed and left unattended, can fester into a major issue or a liability insurance claim. With the typical cost of claims at over $300,000 /year and each claim averaging about 3 years duration, that’s a million dollar misunderstanding.

    However, whether the firm exceeded the client’s expectations or not, effective feedback will contain sufficient specifics to allow the firm to understand exactly what the client either appreciated or objected to. In surveying clients for their feedback, we have found that the shorter and simpler the survey, the greater number of surveys are returned with feedback. Our research has shown that a survey that takes more than a few minutes to complete will be abandoned by 95% of people.


    The ultimate challenge of gathering effective feedback is to make the survey very comprehensive while also being very concise. Over the years, we have distilled the survey questions to a grand total of six. In order for only six questions to cover a wide gamut of client service issues we divided the topics covered into two main categories: Deliverables and Relationships. “Deliverables” inventory the client’s perceptions on WHAT the design firm produced. “Relationships” questions collect feedback on HOW the firm’s process worked. Deliverable questions focus on things while relationship questions focus on people.


    The key factors regarding the Deliverables include how well the design firm’s products:
    • Attended to the Schedule goals of the project
    • Addressed the Budget parameters of the project
    • Included the appropriate Accuracy required to be effective
    The key factors regarding the Relationships include how well the design staff’s process:
    • Offered the Helpfulness needed by the client
    • Included the Responsiveness desired by the client
    • Contained the level of Quality sought by the client
    This breakdown of categories was honed to produce the most constructive feedback for professional service firms while also allowing clients the opportunity to offer succinct but satisfying feedback in order to produce the most successful project. While the firm gets full credit for being proactive and professional in asking for feedback, the client becomes more involved and engaged in the project and therefore feels more ownership in the outcome.

    A survey tool that includes one question in each of the above six categories, particularly if the survey uses our specialized process-oriented question format and detailed numeric answer slider can collect valuable, objective, actionable feedback for a professional services firm in only two minutes of a client’s day.