The Gift of Criticism

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I love it when my associate Sonia tells me in her direct, to-the-point way that she really doesn't like a course segment I put together. It's sometimes uncomfortable to hear, but I find criticism invaluable -- and worth acknowledging.

When I ask Sonia what she doesn't like about what I have put together for a program, for example, her reasons are solid, helpful and almost always merit making a change.

Who needs a "yes" person, when a person who tells you the truth, even if it is uncomfortable to hear, can really make a difference to the achieved results?

Ginger Levin, PhD, PMP, PgMP, drove this home in a note that she sent me a few weeks ago:
"Recently, I gave a program management boot camp. As it seems too often be the case, people in the class found some items that they felt needed change. I thought this was wonderful and I was so pleased that they had pointed them out to me. One person pointed out the majority of the changes, and I decided to send him a small present as a token of my appreciation. I also thanked each person who did so. One person in the class remarked that such thanks had not been given in previous courses she had attended. I welcomed the comments, as they can only help me improve next time."
Can you imagine being given a gift for the criticism you deliver to a colleague? I believe this is a rather rare response to such feedback -- too rare.

Wouldn't project excellence be much more commonplace and achievable if we all responded similarly? And it takes a master like Dr. Levin to truly value this kind of input to keep herself in a mode of continuous improvement.

So let's acknowledge those who tell us the truth -- and make us and what we do better! Their integrity, their commitment to excellence and their unwillingness to shortchange the end result by accepting the mediocre are their gifts to us! 
Posted by Judy Umlas on: April 28, 2010 11:53 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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I agree that criticism is important, but only when it is constructive. Criticism must be delivered in such a way that it is not perceived as a personal attack or an insult. It has been my experience that this is done most effectively by replacing the "you" in your comments with "we" in a non-threatening and non-confrontational manner.

Gerald J Leonard
I totally agree that we should view criticism in a much more favorable light than most of us currently do. It is only through continuously looking for what is not quite right with a process, training program, or project that we learn what we need to improve. I view criticism as a friend who is there to help keep me on the road of continuous improvement.

I once heard this analogy regarding how we should welcome criticism. Image you are at the beach with your kids and the youngest takes a bucket of water and flings it in your face. At first you are shocked from the cold water and stung by the sand being tossed in your face. But after you get over the shock, you look deeply in the bucket and noticed that there are little specks of gold in the bottom of the bucket. This is how criticism is if we are willing to look intently for the gold nuggets of wisdom after we overcome the shock of the comments.


Dear Judy,

I personally like your experience, but want to ask can this applicable to every one? Really want to know the views of other project managers too.



Appreciated. We must always seek such feed back for the sake of the improvement of the system and ourselves?

Atin Roy
It depends upon individual how he/she takes up the critics and translates all the negative aspects to positives. It is also necessary for a critic to provide suggestion for improvement while criticizing. Project Mangers should learn from their failures and should always look at the history. Take right criticism in right manner and strengthen yourselves.

As suggested that in every phase of project life-cycle we should ask for feedback from stakeholders. A good critic always provides the correct feedback and helps in risk mitigation. But, remember, feedback is what we seek for not criticism.

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