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How to Use a Feed-Forward Approach to Encourage Positive Change

Whether you are a middle manager, upper manager, business owner, or entrepreneur, you are probably using a lot of energy to motivate your team for the highest possible potential. This is no easy task.

While completing my MBA I was introduced to the feedforward process to motivate employees. This approach offers a good forum for motivating employees and focusing on upcoming opportunities instead of focusing on past behaviors.

So what is the feed-forward approach?

The feedforward approach focuses on the future, on employee performance, and is done without judgment. In the feedforward approach, you provide feedback to employees for two or three suggestions that they can work on to do better in the future. This approach only focuses on providing feedback and suggestions for the future.  Any past feedback is forbidden. 

Why the Feedforward?

The feedforward approach works because 

  • We can change the future. We can’t change the past.
  • It can be more productive to help people learn to be “right,” than prove they were “wrong.”
  • Feedforward tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback.
  • People do not take feedforward as personally as feedback.

Who does the best with this type of feedback?

This approach works very well with Generation X and Millennials who are much more innovative and engaged in the way they converse.  Millennials are looking for a constant stream of feedback, they want a high level of success, and they want to connect to the organization with a larger purpose in life than just work (Meister and Willyerd, 2016). The feed-forward approach looks at giving consistent feedback which is required for successful people to achieve their goals (Goldsmith, 2002).


Feedback is the traditional approach to correcting or improving employee’s behaviors.  To increase the motivation and morale of employees, companies should look at switching to a feed-forward approach that puts the focus on future opportunities instead of focusing on the past (Goldsmith, 2002).


Goldsmith, M. (2002). Try feedforward instead of feedback. Retrieved from

Kluger, N., Nir, D., (20060. Feed Forward First – Feedback Later. Retrieved from

Meister, J. C., & Willyerd, K. (2010). Mentoring Millennials. (cover story). Harvard Business Review, 88(5), 68–72. Retrieved from fbe9f39147902