Feed-forward vs. Feedback: A communication tool for your business needs.

In my communication coaching, people often tell me that they struggle with how to give feedback. This is a strategy that I have used effectively. Joe Hirsch developed it.


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When we give feedback to our co-workers, or they give feedback to us, the focus is on the past. “Yet people can’t control what they can’t change, and we can’t change the past. The focus of most feedback is on the past.” 1


Feed-forward by Joe Hirsch is an effective way of providing insights because the essential goal of feedforward is to create positive, lasting improvement. To do this, we need to help the receiver uncover their answers, to find that path, to see that internal locus of control, that sense of “I can do this” and a willingness and a desire to want to do it. This only happens if we guide them to finding that solution, not by telling them what that solution should be. 1


PREP  is a tool for feedforward, by Joe Hirsch

PREP is effective because It is clear, honest, and looks for solutions together.  There are no distinctions between positive and negative comments - it is an honest presentation of the facts. The tone is timely and respectful. It focuses on the future, and not on the past.

 People want the truth. This is an authentic way to explore the truth.  This is how it works:


point, reason, explain, and prompt


Prep - Ask permission; even though it’s a formality, it puts people at ease.

Example: “Sally, is it OK with you if I give you some honest feedback?”


P (point) - Locate this feedback accurately and authentically.

Example: “Sally, lately you have been coming in late to work.”


R  (reason)-  What has happened? Don’t make it abstract.

Example: “I’ve been seeing this in the last two weeks almost on a daily basis, and to me, it does seem now like a pattern of behavior.”


E  (explain)- Explain why it’s a problem.

We have to make our feedback as clear as possible to other people, because most of the time the reason why people reject feedback as often as 70 percent of the time, (according to one estimate), is because they don’t understand what you’re saying to them. It’s either too vague, or it’s too much at once.


Example: “When you are coming late like this, it’s disturbing to the others, and more importantly it’s interfering with your ability to be as engaged as a team member.”


P  (prompt) - This is the critical piece, the prompt at the end.

Here, you can ask them what they want to happen, or ask of there is anything that you can do to make this happen.

Example:  “What do you think about this? Do you see this happening yourself? What do you think we could do together to figure out a way forward?”


When you ask people for their opinion, they feel validated, they feel heard, and they feel like your partner. Prompting them for their ideas for solutions doesn’t mean you make them own it exclusively. You still as a leader are going to guide that conversation. You’re the pro, and they’re looking to you for that help. However, the simple act of prompting your partner for a more collaborative solution makes such a difference, and even bad news, when delivered this way — point, reason, explain, prompt — it puts helps people to own the desired change.



 Ponder Questions:

• I noticed that – “I noticed that during the feedback … .”

• I wonder why – “I wonder why you decided to talk to John this way, but when you spoke to Jim, you spoke that way. It seemed like John got a lot of harsh feedback from you, and Jim was getting a lot more positive praise. So why was that?”


Probing lead Questions:

• What if – “What if you decided to try to give three pieces of positive praise that were focused on process.”

• How might – “How might your feedback go differently if you used a 3:1 ratio, positive to negative feedback?”


Why does this work? Each person needs to choose change. You can not force another to change. Research from Joyce and Shower’s shows that telling someone to change has a 0-5% adaptability rate. According to Columbia University psychologist Kevin Ochsnre, people apply only 30% of the feedback they receive. The rest is ignored or rejected. When you turn this into guidance and support, there is higher acceptance rate.



Source: Hirsch, Joe, “The Feedback Fix”,   Roman and Littlefield, 2018






Six strategies to help your audience remember data

Heather Heefner, Dart Design Studio




Business analysis and data - facts - is often what drives business thinking. This strength lies in its objectivity. Analysis and data, although factual, does not drive people to change or adapt an idea. When you are communicating data with the desire to move people, you must speak to their emotion. Why is this? Aristotle coined the reason when he realized that we need a balance of ethos, pathos, and logos in our speeches to captivate an audience.

 So how do we add pathos - emotion into our data to captive our audience attention?


Here are six strategies to help your audience remember data:


1- Site a statistic precisely (this adds to your credibility) and frame it (this creates long-term memory)

 Example: We had 123,111 new customers last year. This means that we have doubled our sales in one year. (1)


2.Paint a Picture. (This helps people feel the emotion behind the number)

 Example: The One-billion-dollar deficit.

When Eisenhower was President of the United States, the country had a 1 billion dollar debt for the first time. Eisenhower knew that stating "one billion dollars" would mean very little to the public. So he painted a picture. He asked the Americans to picture several dollar bills and then to lay them side by side vertically- with the smaller ends touching each other. He asked them to make a chain of these in their minds. He then stated that chain like this going to the moon and back equals one billion dollars. (1)

 If you add a picture of this, the picture will help people remember. By up to 75% more.


 3.Base your number on 10. (This helps with memory)

Say 1 out of 5 instead of 21.2%


 4.Round your statistics

Instead of 62%, say 6 out of 10.

“By the end of the year, 6 out of 10 college students will have $20,00 student loan debt each.”


 5.Compare to the familiar

5,500 square miles

Compare this to the state of Connecticut.


6.Make it Personal

A law school had a 32% attrition rate.

A professor of a first-year class asked the students to look at the person their left and on their right. He then said, “next year one of the three of you will not be sitting here.”  This made the 32% statistic very personal.

Remember, a statistic is a numerical abstraction that is most difficult to remember. These are tools to help you help your audience remember your essential data.

 At Dart Design Studio, our passion is helping professionals and change leaders turn their ideas and dreams into visually exciting stories their audiences can connect with. Connect with us if you want to discuss how to make your data come alive for your audience. 



1.     Humes, James: “Speak Like Churchill and Stand Like Lincoln: 21 powerful secrets of history’s greatest speakers.”  New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002, book.