Speedback is a session where the “speed-dating” format is applied for exchanging feedback within a group of people, usually a team. It is intentional, timeboxed feedback gathering.
10 min per session plus prep
Delivery team: PMs, Designers, and Engineers
Speedback is an opportunity for all participants to give and receive a wide breadth of feedback within a relatively short amount of time. Speedback is also an accessible means to introduce a culture of feedback.
As needed; suggest Quarterly
Note-taking materials or app
It is recommended that a person outside the team facilitates the Speedback sessions. This person’s responsibilities include introducing the Speedback concept (including emphasizing the prep work involved) ahead of time, planning rooms and rounds (who talks to who when and where), keeping time/enforcing switches, and being available to help facilitate feedback sessions if asked. By default, this person does not sit in on any feedback sessions.
If needed, host a 15 minute session to explain Speedback in person using this deck. This is especially helpful if it’s the first time the team has participated in a Speedback style feedback session.
Let the team know a Speedback session is happening, and tell them how to prepare.
Send out calendar invites to block out times and rooms. If remote, include video-call sessions. Since people will be paired up, you’ll need half as many rooms or video call sessions as number of participants.
Prior to the Speedback session, send a reminder for participants to make sure they have their feedback prepared.
Feedback should ideally contain both positive and at least one constructive thought. Consider using one of the feedback frameworks described in the linked Speedback slide deck, such as the Actionable, Specific, and Kind framework (ASK).
Set up a schedule. For example, on a team of 4 participants, you could set it up in the following way:
Speedback time. In any given session, one participant gives their feedback to the other, and they spend up to 5 minutes discussing. Participants are encouraged to take notes but remain engaged. After 5 minutes they switch roles.
At the end of the 10 minutes the next round of Speedback begins, with each participant paired up with a different teammate. This continues until all participants have had a chance to give feedback to one another.
As the facilitator, keep time. If pairs are not switching or are going over their allotted time, let them know and encourage them to wrap up.
At the end of all one-on-one interactions, gather the team together and perform a quick debrief about how the Speedback session went, anything they learned that they would like to share, suggestions for improving the session, when to schedule the next one, and whatever else is on their minds.
Speedback can be intense and overwhelming and some restorative or reflection time afterwards is important. Individuals can either do their own thing, or the team can go out for a coffee or ice cream - they can decide during the wrap up.
Explain to hesitant team members that there is direct value to the project when team members provide and receive individualized feedback. Describe the ASK feedback system and reinforce that everyone participating is likely feeling similarly.
Additionally, the act itself of seeing and participating in a Speedback session is a valuable process/tool for encouraging ongoing feedback within the team even if the team members change over time.
Participants receive a wide breadth of feedback in a short amount of time. Chances are, when an individual receives similar feedback from three different people within an hour, it may resonate more strongly than if the feedback was delivered three times but spread out over the course of a month.
Speedback is also a good way for everyone to get a quick health check on how they are doing as individuals on the team, and to set goals based on what they hear.
Speedback has an advantage of appearing more democratic in that it is initiated by an outsider, facilitated by an outsider, and all participants are on the same footing. This can be less daunting than say, a feedback session that person A initiates with person B specifically.
One disadvantage of Speedback is that due to its timeboxed nature, it can be difficult to go deep into any one topic. Participants can always schedule follow-up sessions to continue the conversation.
Speedback can be very effective when teams are going through a rough patch or if there are indications that the team’s health is taking a downturn. But if the team health or morale is already low, or if a subset of interpersonal relationships have truly deteriorated, Speedback is not the right format to resolve those issues.
Feel free to use the following email template, modifying it as needed based on the size of your Speedback session.
Hi [name of team],
I’d like to run a “Speedback” session for your team next week when you’re all available. What is a Speedback session?
It’s feedback, but speed-dating style. Everyone gets a chance to give and receive feedback to/from everyone else in a timeboxed way.
How does it work?
Folks will pair up and spend 10 minutes with each other (each person does about 5 minutes of giving feedback, and 5 minutes of receiving), then switch pairs. Since this team has 4 team members, that means each of you will speak to 3 others for 10m each. I’ll facilitate and act as time-keeper. I’ve put 45m on the calendar because switching rooms and answering questions can take more time.
Should I prepare anything ahead of time?
Yes, absolutely. Speedback is time to deliver the feedback, not think it up! Please spend some time thinking of feedback for each and every one of your team members prior to the meeting and write it down. I like writing bullets down on 3 stickies or in my notes-app for each person in the following format:
- Things I think the person is doing well
- Areas where I think the person could improve
- Questions or suggestions I have for that person
Then I read through them with the person and I give or send them the notes afterwards. You can adapt whatever style you like, but I encourage writing down the feedback instead of relying on memory (or worse, making it up as you go). I will send out a reminder to have feedback written prior to the session.
How do I make my feedback valuable?
There is a lot of literature out there on this. I’ve included a deck that has some detailed suggestions and format: Interpersonal Feedback - Talk and Workshop.
It’s easy to heap on the praise; try to come up with at least one piece of constructive feedback for everyone.
If the entire team is co-located, try hosting Speedback in person. But if the team is even partially remote, set up the entire session as remote with video calls.
With some clever video-call preparation and facilitation over chat, you can have people virtually enter rooms to give and receive feedback, and the facilitator can use chat apps or the video conferencing tool itself to notify people to switch.
It can be logistically challenging to set up Speedback with a large group. Some teams also may benefit from discipline-specific sessions, such as an engineering-only group.
Try having two or more smaller sessions. Try to keep them somewhat close together (within a week of each other).
At any given time, one person will end up sitting out during each round. They can use that time to reflect, prepare, or just take a break.