Individual contributors and even managers from just about every field can find themselves stuck in a never-ending feedback loop. The never-ending feedback loop is like a memory leak for programmers or a link that redirects to itself just constantly looping and never making any progress. (Thankfully browsers have caught up to this.)
Being in product marketing and focusing a lot on content creation, feedback is a required and very helpful stage in the deliverable process. Nothing should ever be created in a confined box. The opinions of others will help you open your eyes to other perspectives, gaps, and overwritten content. Feedback rounds are required when creating content for your customers or managers. That is literally what your bosses pay you to do. The problem a lot of creators find themselves landing on draft #7, #10, #11, #22, and even myself landing on over 30 drafts based on often conflicting feedback from multiple people. (Sometimes even the same person!) Outside of the obvious problem of constantly working in circles you’re doing your company a disservice.
First, you must look at yourself. Are you missing the mark that much? Or, if you haven’t been fired or told your content is awful, is scope creep and unreasonable requests ruining your timelines? Often promotional or product releases depend on these assets to be published on time, and there is no way to predict something that needs that many revision rounds. Building in feedback rounds is required to become a successful creator and it helps your clients provide valuable feedback, but as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve begun to understand when feedback becomes contradictive and it typically comes down to one issue: Your client or boss doesn’t know what they want.
Indecisiveness isn’t something you can cure but I’ve started using two simple questions that I ask every client, manager, or executive when revisions get out of control. Before you get to these questions you first must make sure you are not the feedback problem. If multiple stakeholders require input in a project, YOU MUST GET EVERYONE IN THE SAME ROOM TO DECIDE ON KEY ELEMENTS. Now, this doesn’t mean to waste everyone’s time with constant meetings, but this does mean when major drafts are completed, they are reviewed by everyone, with everyone around. Regardless of the feedback you receive, the last thing you want to do is be confronted by one stakeholder for following other stakeholder instructions you received directly. Sure individual feedback is great to capture on small items, but any large changes need to be decided on in a group setting. Plus this allows all the stakeholders to voice their concerns with the ideas being proposed and allows everyone to decide as a group.
Now, once you’ve decided to include all stakeholders in your major revision rounds, here is how you keep the team from spinning its wheels and creating dozens of unnecessary changes. The two questions I ask a stakeholder when requested changes are becoming benign:
1. Are the changes you’re requesting addressing something wrong in the material? * Is a product or use-case misrepresented, is something factually incorrect, is there key information missing? * Is this misaligned with our branding?
2. Will the changes you’re requesting increase the number of downloads, leads, pipeline, or revenue?
What you’ll find is opinion seems to take over in feedback rounds, rather than reason. People’s personal need for perfection seems to take over even when perfection to them is not in the best interest of the company. This is especially true in smaller organizations when agility and speed are the keys to success. Don’t get me wrong, you will be asking this question to the people that sign your checks. Most of the time people will come to a compromise realizing they might be putting the deadlines at risk and just move the already great content forward. Sometimes stakeholders feel some of their changes are non-negotiable, and you as their advisor, advocate, and subordinate need to accept that.
Always remember, as a great manager you should always advocate for yourself, your own manager, and your subordinates.