Feedforward vs Feedback: Secrets to Successful Performance Management

March 13, 2024

Feedback is one of the most powerful tools for enhancing team efficiency and refining business processes—yet it’s often met with ambivalence. The reception of feedback can lead to feelings of being judged, shamed, or uncomfortably spotlighted among peers.

However, it’s undeniable that insights on improvement are vital. How then can we offer constructive criticism void of negative connotations?

Enter the concept of “feedforward,” a future-oriented alternative to traditional feedback.

Rather than pinpointing past mistakes or areas for correction, “feedforward” concentrates on enhancing future outcomes. When combined with effective performance management tools, feedforward serves as an invaluable complement to standard feedback practices.

But what’s the optimal way to implement feedforward? And what entails structuring effective feedforward conversations?

Let’s explore further.

Key Insights

– Feedback and feedforward are two distinct strategies for framing constructive criticism, both essential for discussions around employee performance.

– Feedback typically focuses on past events and identifying errors, whereas feedforward centers on prospective improvements and different approaches to future tasks.

– For structuring feedforward conversations, the R.E.P.A.I.R framework is widely used: Regenerating talent, Expanding possibilities, Particular, Authentic, Impact, Refining team dynamic.

Understanding Feedforward:

At its core, feedforward is about suggesting enhancements to work processes or skills with an eye toward how tasks might be approached differently in upcoming endeavors. This approach fosters actionable plans that feed into broader strategies aimed at streamlining business operations.

The Distinction between Feedforward and Feedback:

The primary difference lies in the perspective.

Feedback is familiar territory—received after a project or presentation, often perceived as criticism by focusing on past shortcomings. Given that the past cannot be altered, feedback sometimes comes across as discouraging.

Conversely, feedforward looks ahead. It may propose how a task could be executed differently next time and outline measurable success metrics. It’s about making feedback actionable now and crafting opportunities for professional growth.

The benefits of feedforward extend beyond mere semantics. It represents a strategic shift in communication that can significantly benefit managers and their teams.

Advantages of Feedforward Communication:

While it may appear as a reframing of feedback, feedforward’s shift in focus can greatly aid in fostering intentional communication within teams.

Primarily as a coaching technique, feedforward places an individual’s future development at the forefront, instead of dwelling on past errors. Employees seek professional growth opportunities, and feedforward is designed to support such advancements.

So, what specific benefits does feedforward communication offer to an organization?

Judgement Free Zone:

Avoiding judgment or criticism at work enhances engagement. Feedforward transforms potential areas of weakness from previous tasks into learning opportunities for future ones, cultivating a more positive approach.


Beyond analyzing past projects for improvement areas, feedforward anticipates and addresses potential issues beforehand by shifting from “What went wrong?” to “What can we do better next time?”

Catalyst for Growth:

Providing developmental opportunities is at the heart of feedforward. The receiver gains insights into task performance and improvement areas, emphasizing potential growth.

Structuring a Feedforward Conversation:

The approach to delivering feedforward will vary based on the task and team dynamics but should always aim at personal and professional development.


To those new to the concept or looking for a structured format, the R.E.P.A.I.R. method offers a solid foundation for performance management conversations:

R – Regenerating Talent:
View feedforward as an opportunity for knowledge transfer from supervisors to their team, fostering career progression.

E – Expanding Possibilities:
Emphasize amplifying over silencing statements to encourage creativity and adaptability.

P – Particular:
Provide specific guidance to avoid the pitfalls of vague criticisms.

A – Authentic:
Maintain genuine communication that focuses on improvement without resorting to disingenuous praise.

I – Impact:
Aim for a lasting positive impact on both the giver and receiver of feedforward, promoting professional growth.

R – Refining Team Dynamic:
Feedforward can also enhance team interactions by encouraging constructive engagement across all levels.

Feedforward versus Feedback: Practical Examples:

Understanding feedforward in contrast with traditional feedback is best illustrated through examples.

Consider a scenario where a team member has completed a task or project. Feedback might focus on what didn’t work, while feedforward would look at what could be improved next time—maintaining a positive, forward-looking stance that prioritizes task improvement and future success.

Such practice doesn’t suggest abandoning feedback entirely. Instead, it advocates starting with an understanding of shortcomings but moving beyond to explore improvements and future strategies actively.

In embracing both feedback and feedforward within your organizational culture, you foster an environment conducive to continuous improvement. This strategy doesn’t just highlight faults but also explores solutions and future enhancements that drive efficiency and effectiveness.

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