Straight up, no ice....

Straight up, no ice....

You know the way sometimes, a post, or even a comment on a post gets you thinking. A recent comment by Phil Kirkham on Georgia Motoc’s blog got my subconscious brain working overtime. So much to the point where I feel compelled to put finger to keyboard and write about it.
I had always been a fan of positive praise before negative feedback. As the bearer of bad news (like many software testers), I though this was an effective way of cushioning the impact of what I wrote or said.

So, when Georgia Motoc wrote  a post on feedback discussing the ‘Praise Sandwich’ I was surprised how negative Phil was on the approach. However his comment and  his link (indirectly to a post by Art Petty ) really got me thinking of how I communicate with developers. It made me realise that the positive feedback I was providing was more for my benefit than for the software developer.

Here is some Art’s original post:

5  Reasons Why the Sandwich Technique is a Truly Bad Practice:

  • It is  a crutch that is solely for the benefit of the giver, not the  receiver.
  • It obfuscates the real message.
  • It confuses the  receiver by watering down the key message.
  • It destroys the value of  positive feedback by linking it with the negative. Don’t forget that positive  feedback is a powerful tool for reinforcing the right behaviors and the sandwich  technique devalues this tool.
  • It is insulting to the receiver and  borderline deceitful. “Bob, you did a great job on XYZ, but .” It’s like a  pat on the back followed by a sucker punch followed by another pat on the  back.

I have a real reason why I have changed my attitude to this:

When I’m on a short term assignment (which is often)  I don’t have time or the need to cultivate deep relationships with software developers. What is important is that the bugs I find are communicated in a clear and concise manner. That’s what I am paid for.

The praise sandwich is not necessary and more importantly it does not provide best value to my client.  This is something I learnt on James Bach’s course and has stuck with me. What ever you do ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now adding value for my customer”.

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