We believe we should always question ourselves if our practices and processes really make sense. Even the most basic, rooted and obvious ones. In fact, especially these ones. This series of articles will document all the experiments we created to help us evolve and to bring us closer to what we believe is a proper and true relationship with the work we do.
Today, the experiment is about how the 360° feedback works.
What’s this experiment about?
It’s an exchange of feedback structured among all the members of the Startaê team - a distributed team.
Currently, we’re a team of 14 members working remotely in 5 cities (Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro e São Paulo). Communication is key for our team. For us, to give and to receive feedback should be equally important. At Startaê, we’re always exchanging feedback, and we agree that the best time to give and receive it is precisely as the situations are taking place, rather than postponing it for some other time.
Every quarter we also organize a retrospective meeting that we affectionately call Retrô. This is the time for the founders of Startaê to focus on doing purpose alignment and also to exchange more substantial feedback with each member of the team. It’s the right time to openly share ideas as well as to talk about the positive aspects of our work in the last three months; the things that can be improved and what measures can be taken for the continued growth of the team and of the individual.
However, while still not feeling completely satisfied with all these achievements, we decided to keep on searching for a format where each member of the team would be receiving suggestions on how to evolve not only from the founders, but also from the people he or she works with and spend time together on a daily basis.
We decided to implement the 360° feedback experiment during the Retrô meeting: an ideal place where all the members of the team could exchange structured feedback with one another. We treat feedback as a gift, and we also believe that it’s one of the best tools for the development of the team as well as for our personal growth.
How does the 360° feedback work?
At the beginning of each year, we organize our agendas, setting up all the important events taking place in the calendar, and the Retrô meeting is certainly one of them.
A week before the Retrô takes place, we share a private document on Google Docs with each member of the team. This document is filled in and shared with the founders of Startaê, and will later be used to guide our conversation. Send us a message if you’d like to hear more about this document. ;)
As part of this document, an activity is given to provide feedback not only between the founders and a single member of the team, but also amongst the entire team, and this is the 360° feedback! One week may seem like a long time, but we realized that the team needed more time to think about the things they would like to say to each other.
In this first experiment, we avoid setting too many rules on what and how to write, in order to bring a lighter connotation and also to make the team feel more comfortable as they go through this process. At this stage, we decided to change the word “feedback” to the word “suggestion” to make the process less formal. This was suggested in this post from Claire Lew, CEO at Know Your Company.
The name of this activity in the document is “Help the other Makers to Evolve”. The idea is that a member of the team formulates a suggestion that might help another member to evolve professionally and/or personally. At the end of each one of the Retrô meetings we collect all the suggestions addressed to each member and we send them to each one personally.
Following our analogy of the feedback as a gift, we thought about delivering the feedback literally as a gift. So we made little boxes and printed all the feedback in the shape of a card. In each card a different suggestion was written. Then, each person had his/her little box of suggestions as a present.
At the end of each OKR, the team gets together in Brasília to celebrate the end of a cycle, a quarter. The delivery of the boxes is done on the last day of the cycle, when we celebrate together the results achieved and prepare ourselves to begin a new cycle of three months.
As our team in general works remotely we usually meet in a particular city for the face to face closing of the quarter as was mentioned in this post about Team Retreats. Recently, for the first time, one of our members attended this meeting remotely, directly from Vancouver. Still, this wasn’t an obstacle to deliver his present. We delivered it virtually, in a video.
To implement the 360° feedback system for a remote team is not as terrifying as it may seem. We know there are many areas we can still improve during the process, but we already feel happy with results.
It has been a fantastic experiment. This new practice had a great impact upon each one of us, more than we could ever imagine. As we shared with our team what we think and how we feel for one another, we have definitely strengthened our bonds.
This experiment was very worthwhile and we’re looking forward to the next one!