Do you have a “Waiting for customer feedback” column on your board? Does your work get stuck in there for days, even weeks, while your team is working hard to maintain predictable delivery results? If that’s the case, it’s probably worth reconsidering how you approach the situation.

Let’s go back to the basics. Every workflow has a beginning and an end. In its most simple form, it looks like “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done”. Your “To Do” state holds all the work items that are ready to be started, your “Done” state is a container for all the work that is considered complete. And the states that the work moves through, from start to finish, are your “Doing” states.

And here is a question that I’ve been asked quite often: If a new work item goes to “To Do”, and a work item being worked on is “Doing”, then where should an item be that has been worked on and is now waiting for customer feedback?

The answer is pretty simple: as long as the work is not considered complete, “Waiting for customer feedback” is a “Doing” state.

You might be thinking, “But Sonya, that would make certain requests look like they take weeks to finish when in reality, a few minutes of work might be all it took. The rest is waiting on customers”.

Well, does effort time equate to delivery time? Did your customer consider the work as finished after these few minutes of work? The answer to both these questions is No.

Let’s talk about what needs to happen to handle this situation strategically.

Top 3 Management Don’ts to Avoid When Waiting for Customer Feedback

I’d like to give you a piece of advice regarding the most common traps you should avoid when waiting for your customers to come back to you. My hope is that, by the end of this post, you’ll come up with a few ideas on how to address this challenge in your own context.

#1 Don’t Map Your Awaiting Status as Done

If your work item is waiting for feedback, it isn’t done. The item is still outstanding, and it will only be considered finished once your customer provides their approval. If they don’t, you still have work to do.

Your board design should reflect reality. It must be the single source of truth and as such, it needs to visualize what’s actually happening with the work.

But I understand where the urge to modify your data is coming from. After all, we all want to have beautiful pictures of our performance metrics. However, there are a lot of moving parts that need to work together so that you can deliver results quickly and efficiently. And ignoring certain parts won’t make them disappear.

Don’t map your “Waiting for customer feedback” status as Done. Instead, visualize it as a Doing status and keep track of how much time your work spends there.

Don’t worry about what your metrics and analytics look like.

Honestly, my most favorite stage of business development is the one where the pictures are not-so-pretty. And the reason is that ugly pictures translate to opportunities for improvement. The more you see, the more you’ll be able to address. And the more you address, the faster you’ll make progress.

#2 Don’t Disregard the Time Your Work Spends in Your Waiting States

Now that your status is a “Doing” one, you’ll be able to see, at a glance, the actual amount of time your items had to wait for your customer’s feedback.

This is where the Cycle Time Breakdown Chart comes into play. It visualizes your process states cycle time vs the overall cycle time needed to finish your work.

Waiting for customer feedback

Spotting the states with the longest sections on the diagram, analyzing their cycle times and identifying the root causes of delays are the most important steps towards improving your performance.

And sometimes, it might feel like your hands are tied and there is nothing you can actually do. After all, it is the client who is expecting quick delivery results and now they are the ones who are disrupting the flow.

Here’s the thing, if you see that the time spent in “Waiting for customer feedback” represents a massive chunk of your delivery times, don’t disregard it. On the contrary, give it your entire concentration.

Use your metrics as evidence to emphasize the importance of the current situation and identify potential opportunities for improvement. The goal is to figure out how to reduce the impact it has on your predictability and your overall delivery speed.

 

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#3 Don’t Give Up until You Figure Out a Solution

You have to figure out a way to manage expectations effectively.

Remember, if something is important enough to be started, it should be important enough to be finished as soon as possible. And your clients need to agree with that.

Have an honest conversation with them, and expose your point of view in a way that helps your customer understand the benefits for them as well. Agree on a threshold to make the goals you have more tangible.

Let’s say your client feels comfortable providing you their feedback within 5 business days. Analyze your cycle times and discuss the impact that a delay of 5 days may have.

The most important part of this negotiation is to achieve an alignment so that you preserve the predictability of your delivery system and your client feels confident that the work will be completed within their expectations.

Here is a suggestion that you might find useful. Keep your customers close throughout the entire lifecycle of your work items. At some point, you may want to eliminate the “Waiting for customer feedback” status altogether and instead let them become part of your process, so that they can give you their perspective consistently.

Schedule a regular meeting with your clients to review and discuss the progress of the work (ideally on a weekly basis). With this approach, you’ll have everything you need to achieve an alignment between everyone involved and manage realistic expectations.

If you’re interested in exploring our proven 7-step roadmap to enable a smooth flow of work and consistent delivery outcomes, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our Sustainable Predictability program.

It’s time for action! Start visualizing the waiting time in your process and measure the impact it has on your overall delivery times. Bring the data from your Cycle Time Breakdown Chart to your retrospectives, emphasize the problems and brainstorm possible solutions. Take action and observe the results. Repeat. This is a continuous process, it should never end.

The closer you keep your customers, the better. A long-term thriving relationship is based on transparency and appreciation. In order to get there, there must be alignment and a common vision on how to improve the way you manage the work going forward.

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