Plus/Delta: A Feedback Tool to Drive Improvement
Improvement science puts intentional, evidence-backed approaches behind the practice of getting better. The more you involve your team in improvement practices and the more tools you have to create systems of improvement, the more successful you will be at ending initiative fatigue and shifting to an improvement mindset.
- The Plus/Delta provides a structured approach for teams to work together to capture feedback, identify areas for improvement, and take action to make changes.
- The Plus/Delta process can be used in a wide variety of situations, including project retrospectives, team debriefings, and event evaluations.
- While collecting feedback is extremely important, committing to action creates trust and improvement.
Engage and Validate Employee Input
When you engage team members in goal setting, reviewing results, taking actions for improvement, and celebrating wins, you provide them with opportunities for valuable insight. You also empower them to be owners of their own outcomes. The plus/delta process engages employees in conversation that validates their feedback and ideas. Employees are further validated when they see actions taken. The resulting improvements support a great work environment.
Plus/Delta is a simple improvement tool that is easy to incorporate into your toolset. It provides a structured approach for capturing feedback, identifying areas for improvement, and taking action to make changes as a team. Plus/Delta might be used to:
• Reflect on a recent event
• Assess the effectiveness of a team project
• Gather immediate feedback about a new process or initiative
• Ask a random sample of employees or teams about the latest organizational change
This activity asks team members what worked well and what could be changed for improvement. Responses from all participants are recorded for all to see. The PLUS (+) column is used to capture wins and what worked well. The DELTA (Δ) column is used to capture ideas for improvement. The leader might choose one issue to focus on or allow the team to determine the focus of the conversation. Ultimately, this would lead to changes for improvement that the team has identified.
Plus/Delta in 3 Steps
Before starting the Plus/Delta exercise, make sure that everyone understands its purpose, scope and expected outcomes. Explain how the feedback will be collected, analyzed and used to drive continuous improvement. Create a safe and open environment that encourages everyone to participate and share their feedback openly and honestly.
By following these steps, you can conduct a successful Plus/Delta exercise that provides valuable feedback, drives continuous improvement, and fosters a culture of learning and collaboration.
Step 1: After an event or implementation of a process hold a Plus/Delta session with your team.
Start by drawing a large plus sign (+) and a large delta sign (Δ) on a whiteboard, flipchart or paper.
Ask the participants to think about the experience or project that needs to be evaluated, and to write down on post-it notes or index cards the things that went well during the experience (pluses) and the things that could be improved (deltas). Alternatively, you can divide the participants into two groups, one to focus on the pluses and the other to focus on the deltas.
Make sure that the group is equally focused on identifying both the positive aspects and the areas for improvement. Celebrate successes and achievements, but also acknowledge the challenges and issues.
Step 2: Organize, Share and Report Out
Have the participants place their post-it notes or index cards on the appropriate sign on the board. As they do this, ask them to briefly explain their points to the rest of the group.
Avoid criticizing or judging feedback, and focus on constructive and actionable insights.
As the feedback is collected, organize it into common themes or categories. This will help to identify the most important issues and prioritize them for action.
Step 3: Create a 90-Day Action Plan
Once the feedback is organized, facilitate a discussion to explore the themes and possible solutions. Encourage everyone to share their ideas, listen actively and build on each other’s insights.
Prioritize the deltas by discussing which ones have the most impact on the experience or project and which can be addressed most easily. Then, brainstorm possible solutions for the identified deltas and decide on an action plan to address them.
Close the exercise by summarizing the key insights and lessons learned, and noting any follow-up actions. At team meetings, revisit the 90-Day Action Plan and monitor improvement results.
Plus/Delta in Action
Continuous improvement is an ongoing process of identifying opportunities for improvement, making changes, and evaluating their effectiveness. The Plus/Delta process is a useful tool for this because it provides a way to gather feedback and insights from stakeholders, such as faculty and staff, school board members, students, parents or other community members. By doing this, it helps to uncover hidden issues or challenges that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The Plus/Delta process promotes open communication and collaboration among team members. It creates a safe space for sharing feedback, ideas, and concerns, and encourages constructive dialogue and problem-solving. Involving everyone in the process fosters a sense of ownership and accountability, which is essential for driving continuous improvement. By using this process regularly, organizations can stay focused on their goals, adapt to changing conditions, and continually improve their performance.
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To use the plus/delta process for continuous improvement, leaders and teams must:
Set clear expectations when conducting a plus/delta so that everyone understands its purpose, scope and expected outcomes.
Create a safe and open environment that encourages everyone to participate and share their feedback openly and honestly.
While collecting feedback is important, committing to action will create trust across the entire team which will lead to improvement.