My take on 10/50/99% feedback approach

As a people manager you are always facing a challenge. How and when to provide the right information to help your direct reports to achieve a success. A lot of it is feedback. After taking a seminar on 10/50/99, I understood my mistakes with feedback. What I present below are my thoughts, which I’ll start to implement and share the experience later. Today I’d like to take a look at the 10/50/99 method seen from inside of my head. But before that …

The first thing to remember is, you are learning best if the feedback flows directly to you and is not filtered by someone else’s opinions. Also feedback works best if the outcomes and actions are supervised. This worked well for me when I was being taught to coach. Having another person with more experience to supervise you helps. Think of your supervisor as the person, who walked the path you are walking, but already knows where are the oasis on the desert. You need a supervisor in that sense.

There are two more things that are required for you to get effective feedback.

  1. You will need to network with other people. Knowing only a few people / exposing your thoughts to only a few people, never opens up a proper opportunity to grow. Not knowing anyone makes feedback culture impossible.
  2. You will need to have your own way and start sharing it with the world. If you are just following, it will be pretty hard for you to understand where you’d like to get. If you don’t know that, don’t expect your supervisor will.

And with that said, the standard 10/50/99% feedback method used for products is:

  • At the 10% mark, the project is still in its very early phases, and can easily be altered.
  • At the 50% mark, the project’s core components should be coming together, allowing for finer details to be amended.
  • By the 99% mark, most professionals should be focused on finalizing a project and checking features like grammar, spelling, and data accuracy.

My way to deal with it in personal / career growth goes more like:

  • At the 10% mark, the year is still in its very early phases, and can easily be altered. Think on your goals.
  • At the 50% mark, the year’s core ambitions should be coming together, allowing for finer details to be amended. All goals should have clear plans and expectations set. And be partially executed.
  • By the 99% mark, most professionals should be focused on finalizing their year and checking impact, execution and wrapping up.

In most companies, these will be executed as start of year discussions, mid year discussions and end of year discussions. It does not need to remain like this, as the culture grows and enhances over the years.

Feedback should be continuous, at the same time, what we feedback on, should be adjusted based on where a person is within the feedback year.

At 10%

It is the time to start building your network of people, who you’ll ask for feedback later. It’s fine to go out to them with a simple:

‘Hello friend! I have this and this on my mind to do this year, would you mind helping me out on the journey?’

And set clear expectations. This is, you’ll need feedback from them and you might ask for advice. Inform your supervisor, he might have some suggestions on whom else would be worth to you to pick.

When creating your growth goals at 10% it is imperative to find these ‘guiding souls’, just to avoid the trouble of asking random people for feedback.

You and your supervisor should work on the goals and the supportive people and process framework that will help you to get the most out of the process.

Between here and 50%, it is worth to get as much ‘strategic direction’ and ‘whats missing, what is too much’ kind of feedback. It will be much harder to change these things at 50%.

Separately, learn to accept all the people who are not involved, but will provide some additional insight here and there. These little sparks of insight can be extremally useful. Some though, will need to be flat ignored (for you to stay focused, you might not have the time to always explain to each bystander, what is the full context. Having documentation should help in most cases here.)

At 50%

This is the place to start wrapping up. By now you should understand what is expected of you and what others feel on your goals and their execution. You have built the relationships and understand what you need to change.

Some of your goals might already be executed.

Please clearly state to your feedback providers and your supervisor, it will be hard to change the direction at this stage. (note: it is not impossible, though lets work with the intent you, your supervisor and the wider audience got this right!)

It is also worth to start documenting your feedback and evidence of progress. One of the most common growths at work is higher salary, bonus or change of position. Even though you have built your supportive network, there will be people looking at your journey, who might not understand the context. Good, evidence-based story writing about yourself is an excellent skill here.

Separately try to convince your supervisor, to not create surprise feedback requests, if people being asked are too far from being able to assess the progress. They will mostly concentrate on the last 2-3 weeks, given they won’t be able to recall the context of interaction. This is sadly, how our brains work.

At 99%

The time between 50% and 99% is the work on the real impact, then crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.

You should repeat the same process as at 50% (mid year), with all the relevant feedback collection and impact, and evidence statements.

Use your supervisor as the person, who should be promoting your work, similar to what happens to students and their professors at a university.

With this approach though:

  • you have built a wider support network and your goals got rationalized to its needs
  • you have a lot of context-relevant feedback
  • you have your supervisor on your side
  • you have engaging and convincing story about yourself

You chance to get promoted or getting that bonus have just increased. The benefits for the company are also massive: a group of people working together, within a business need that was validated by the supervisor as a goal you can take on.

I still fail at this, as mentioned at the start of the article. My main two improvement areas include:

  • Stop asking random people for feedback
  • Help people I am supervising to build that initial support network at the start

I intend to improve, at the same time – this is the end of my today’s post. Hope you liked it.

I am also working towards replacing the milestones by just free-flow of feedback. Before I get there though, the above gives me a good framework to practice on.

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