360 Degree Dinner for open and effective feedback in development teams of product finance innovation areas

Introduction

Teams in finance product innovation areas have often a lot of stress because of the complexity of their daily work. Personal discussions and team-finding elements are often rare so the collaboration improvement is lowered. The individuals inside a product finance innovation development need to find a suitable way, place, and time how to give valuable and open feedback to each other.

The practice: Short explained

Invite as a facilitator of product finance development teams your team to a restaurant in the evening. Create an atmosphere of openness by reserving your own table for your team so that they can see each other and speak in an open way. Also, foster this safety by finding happy and collaborative words at the beginning of the team's dinner after everybody sits. After the start of your dinner, let the people give you the first feedback on your results and your interaction with them, and everything that is important to them. After that, let the team members individual by individually give feedback so that everybody gets from everybody true appreciation/likes and also wishes for the future. Continue the evening in a nice and friendly way and repeat the 360 degrees in a regular way to foster morale and energy as well as openness inside your team.

Why did I decide to use this practice?

My team was already one month together and I felt that they were not speaking always open and respectful with each other — they had to improve they are communication and interaction.

How did I use this practice?

I invited my team to an outside restaurant in the summer with a round table so that everybody was able to see each other and the team members had a natural-based feeling. I hold a short 2 minutes speech about our last Sprint success and the good stakeholder feedback for our financial innovation product. Then, the starter food came and the team was breaking the eyes by talking with each other in an easy way. After that, I wished to get from everybody feedback regarding my strength (e.g. good performance, and my common being) but also wishes for future collaboration and personal development. After that, my development team members were giving each other feedback: appreciation as well as wishes for the future.

How was the process to give feedback among all, was there an organization?

After I got the first feedback, we started like that, the person with the first name with always the next earliest letter in the alphabet went on to get feedback from the others. So, nobody was highlighted by her character elements — it was a neutral organization with a clear process for everyone.

Did the feedback have any structure or pattern?

The structure which I suggested was oriented on the “clean feedback” mechanism as well as starting with an appreciation. So, the people explained at first what they recognized with their eyes and ears in the first month of the new team. Then, they explained how they felt by themself if they had to process the words, emotions, and sounds from the others. To open the room to get feedback, everyone started at first with something positive to show also appreciation and that the other one notices his strength which was recognized.

My learnings as a facilitator

The team morale and common understanding were fostered in a strong way and I felt how the flow during my common working days was improved. The living of true values like openness and respect was improved in a significant way.

Did I experience that having my own table with the team and starting with kind words can create an open atmosphere with psychological safety?

Well, the key point here was to foster openness by leading by example and to have the ability “to read the room”. I explained to my team in the first minutes, that I had already had several teams in the last years where the new members needed to know each other better to build a mutual understanding of the team's values, This helped to create a high coherence and fostered resilience. The team was hearing very carefully about my success story from the past and understood, that an open exchange about my personal strength and especially my improvement fields and their own strength and improvement fields would be also in our team very helpful. Furthermore, I introduced shortly the Vegas Rule which I know from my experience as a Scrum Master: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. In this context, it was as described above very helpful that I let them start to give me feedback. Furthermore, I ask also after I got the first feedback if it is ok that we move now around one by one to make sure, that the people are comfortable with our 360-degree feedback approach.

What kind of feedback did people give each other?

The feedback to me as the team facilitator and to each other was a mix of personal and organizational improvement suggestions. It was very interesting to recognize how much the team members already knew many of the strengths but also personal soft skills and organizational skills from each other which could be improved. I recognized by my ability to read the room, that the emotional and open atmosphere raised from feedback round to feedback round.

Was there any harsh feedback for anyone? How did they take it and how did I facilitate that situation?

Some young developers god also some hard feedback regarding some of their technical skills which were for two of them at first hard to hear. Fortunately, they were able to articulate this point by themself so that the person who gave this feedback was able to highlight also the strengths of the young developers.

Is there any anecdote that you can share with us more specifically and also how this changed after the feedback?

In the first month, I recognized often some young developers which were very loud talking during their pair programming. After our 360 degrees dinner, they knew from the others, that this was sometimes annoying. The learning was to do pair programming in a focus room / quiet room in our office, not in the open space area. In the next one-on-one speech, the young developers were very thankful to me, that they had the chance to get the recognized improvement points from the others.

What experiments can you think of doing with the implementation of this practice?

Next time, I will go with my team for a weekend trip in nature to build upon our first experience during this dinner. I believe that the weekend trip will intensify the team's trust and before the two dinners in the evening, I would like to experiment in this way, that we make our own fireplace together and do our own barbeque in the forest, to have a longer warm-up / team-building phase. I believe that this will foster more and more our team's openness and psychological safety.

What could you do better or differently next time?

I got valuable feedback to set up the right way of facilitation and way of leading the team. If I start next time with a team, I would do the 360-degree dinner already in the first two weeks, not after 4 weeks to accelerate the learning of my team. In addition, I will do it with my team now at least one time per month to foster our team morale and encourage every individual's team integration — it does not matter if the individual is usually more a shy person or naturally more extroverted. Important was the open and not work-related atmosphere and I started to get feedback from my team to make the 360-degree dinner most effective.

Literature

https://management30.com/practice/360-degree-dinner/

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