A project manager’s guide to consolidating feedback like a pro
Nonprofit staff communicators often create materials that are reviewed by working groups, committees, and other groups with many people. When everyone chimes in how do you know which comments are just food-for-thought? Which can’t be ignored? How do you reconcile when people disagree? Who’s got the final say? The process of consolidating feedback isn’t just a matter of placing everyone’s feedback into one place (although that is part of it also!), but rather it’s the art of pulling out the decisions, connecting the dots, and pushing folks to reach consensus at key moments.
The feedback consolidator isn’t always the most glamorous role, but it’s essential to have one person leading the charge. Here’s a simple guide to collecting and consolidating feedback:
- Define roles and identify key decision-makers. As soon as you start working on a new project, you’ll need to assemble your project team and establish a working group structure (we typically recommend RACI, DARCI, or MOCHA frameworks). Determine who needs to review the work and at what stage in the process. Depending on what you are working on, it’s possible your senior leadership doesn’t need to review a draft until it’s been pushed pretty far by a core team, for example. If it’s a project that will require buy-in from board members and senior leadership, make sure to map out the parts of the project that they need to review, and at what stage they should see new things. Make sure everyone is clear and agrees with their role up front so there are no surprises or frustrations downstream.
- Get everyone in the same room. This includes the key decision-makers for whatever stage of the project you are in. A group discussion will make everything easier to hash out. Going into these meetings, prepare by thinking about how you’ll approach different viewpoints. Set expectations at the start of the meeting that your goal is to reach consensus. Since scheduling is always a challenge, consider holding time on calendars well in advance on a regular basis.
- Probe. Push your team to elaborate and probe when necessary. If someone says “I don’t like that word”, try asking them “What is it specifically about that word that you don’t like?”. Follow up by asking if others in the group agree. At the end of the meeting restate what you think has been agreed upon and ask for confirmation from the group.
- Streamline your review process. If you are passing around documents or having various conversations with your team when they are available rather than meeting altogether, save the decision-maker for last. That person may also be able to help close any open threads and help make final decisions. Once all decisions and open-ended questions have been identified, compile it all in one place. If you’re sharing it with an agency, consultant, or outside partner, omit anything that will distract them unnecessarily. They will find it most useful if you are clear and specific with your feedback.
- Manage in all directions. Don’t be afraid to bug your colleagues, in the nicest way possible, of course. Reminders, proactive communication, and nudging people to elaborate are all great project management skills and your colleagues will feel comforted knowing that you’ve got it completely under control.
- Use digital tools. We use a lot of tools at Big Duck to help streamline and consolidate feedback. Google documents allow for easy collaboration and sharing notes back and forth. Asana and Basecamp are other great project management tools that allow for close collaboration, keep people accountable, and have calendar and to-do list functions that you can use to send requests for feedback and map out the timeline for your review process.
Following these guidelines will help ensure that your project runs smoothly and will eliminate the possibility of missing key feedback or making mistakes.