‘Speedbacks’ Are the Key to Team Improvement

Done well, they can supercharge teams’ ability to learn, grow and exceed their potential.

Written by Rose Fan
Published on Feb. 23, 2022
‘Speedbacks’ Are the Key to Team Improvement
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As companies continue to embrace hybrid work models, it’s critical that they cultivate a culture that prioritizes feedback. 

Feedback powers professional growth and helps teams achieve greater harmony and productivity. For software delivery teams, a culture of feedback can mean reaching launch goals on time and effectively. But all too often, the practice of giving and receiving feedback is often overlooked. 

At VMware, we rely on “speedbacks” as one way to ensure developer teams — especially in remote settings — are able to conduct a quick health check on how they are doing as individuals on the team and to set goals based on what they hear. All of which can break down reluctance to share issues and foster productivity and success.


What Are Speedbacks?

 Speedback sessions apply a “speed-dating” format for exchanging feedback within a group of people (usually a team).

How to Conduct a Speedback

  1. Pair team members and give them around 10 minutes to give and receive feedback.
  2. When the time is up, have them switch pairs and repeat until they’ve spoken to everyone on the team once.
  3. To achieve the best results, have team members prepare written feedback and bring one constructive suggestion.

As a manager, practicing a speedback for the first time can take some proactive encouragement. To get teams to agree, it may be helpful for managers to volunteer their time to help facilitate a speedback for the first time. A manager or other person outside the team can help the team prepare for rounds by establishing when and where people talk to each other, keep time and enforce switches. 


Unlock Developer Productivity

When there are walls up and a lack of cross-communication in software delivery, it can result in a product that doesn’t meet the market needs. Incorporating a feedback loop with quarterly speedbacks can serve as a retrospective for everyone and reveal areas of improvement. Improvements are necessary for developer teams to move more efficiently, and deliver quality code more often.

Developer teams often have diverse skill sets, communication styles and expertise, which can lead to friction or confusion. Speedbacks can be a beneficial exercise where individuals can receive feedback in a kind and actionable way — allowing them to build self awareness and improve how they communicate with their pair or their team the next time. 

Speedbacks can also be a valuable exercise to foster transparency and balance between teams. When you encourage people to offer feedback to their peers, it can eliminate imaginary political lines and open the door to productive conversations that streamline expectations, goals and processes. 

If everyone on the team adopts these improvements and small tweaks, this self-awareness can lead to better interactions, which should boost productivity, agility and overall performance.

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Are Speedbacks Right for Your Team?

Vulnerability is a key ingredient for being able to exchange feedback and have a growth culture among teams. In fact, Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor studying human connection, often talks about the power of vulnerability and finds that when we ignore fear and deny vulnerability, fear can grow and metastasize. 

Speedbacks should be used with teams that have a baseline level of trust and safety. If teams are resistant to the idea and there isn’t enough psychological safety, giving actionable and specific feedback can be difficult and ineffective. However, managers can work to build trust by modeling behaviors they would like to see. Managers who show that they care about their team as people — rather than just cogs in the machine — can help foster the vulnerability needed to grow.

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Creating a Culture of Feedback

Above all else, speedbacks are an accessible means to introduce a culture of feedback. Getting it on the calendar can help teams with different skill sets and abilities foster improvement and collaboration. By creating a safe environment where feedback is shared constructively, teams can grow, learn and focus on how to improve.

As organizations continue to navigate hybrid models of how we work and interact with each other both remotely and in-person, speedbacks can be a valuable tool to transform communication and foster collaboration and success.

If you’re interested in implementing speedbacks at your organization, the Tanzu Developer Center outlines steps in our Speedback Feedback Guide, which also provides sample decks and prompts that teams can use.

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