Blog Posts

26 August 2021

Creating a Feedback Culture at IMS

At IMS, we believe in creating an environment where all our people feel confident in both giving and receiving quality feedback in order to continue to shape a high performing culture.

Chris Townsend, Head of Software Development, talks us through his thoughts on Feedback and why the 4A format popularised by Netflix has proved to be a helpful method for the IMS team…

Popularised by Netflix, the 4A format provides some simple yet important guidelines that aim to support us in giving and receiving feedback that is constructive for the individual, and resultantly beneficial for the business. The guidelines below are taken directly from Erin Meyer in No Rules Rules:

Giving feedback

  • Aim to assist: Feedback must be given with positive intent. Giving feedback in order to get frustration off your chest, intentionally hurting the other person, or furthering your political agenda is not tolerated. Clearly explain how a specific behaviour change will help the individual or the company, not how it will help you. “The way you pick your teeth in meetings with external partners is irritating” is wrong feedback. Right feedback would be, “If you stop picking your teeth in external partner meetings, the partners are more likely to see you as professional, and we’re more likely to build a strong relationship.”
  • Actionable: Your feedback must focus on what the recipient can do differently.  At IMS we often have to deliver messages to groups across different geographies and cultures.  Poor feedback on a presentation delivered by a UK colleague could sound like “Your presentation went down really badly in Canada.” Good feedback would be, “The way you ask the audience for input is resulting in only UK colleagues participating.” Even better would be: “If you can find a way to solicit contributions from all nationalities in the room your presentation will be more powerful.”

Receiving feedback

  • Appreciate: Natural human inclination is to become defensive or make excuses when receiving criticism; we all reflexively seek to protect our egos and reputation. When you receive feedback, you need to fight this natural reaction and instead ask yourself, “How can I show appreciation for this feedback by listening carefully, considering the message with an open mind, and becoming neither defensive nor angry?”
  • Accept or discard: You will receive lots of feedback from lots of people in work. We recommend listening and considering all feedback provided, but you are not required to follow it. Say “thank you” with sincerity, but both you and the provider must understand that the decision to react to the feedback is entirely up to the recipient.

You can read more about the Netflix approach to feedback and candour in No Rules Rules.

The techniques and approaches described in the book don’t offer a cookie-cutter approach, and what works for Netflix might not necessarily work for us here at IMS.

That said, a culture where people feel comfortable and empowered to highlight problems and issues early, regardless of the audience, and get constructive help from their colleagues on how to perform better in their roles, will help us to develop and retain the talented people that we need in order to be successful.

We’re not just talking about it though.  At IMS we’re currently in the process of rolling out a series of feedback conversations workshops to help everyone understand the importance of great feedback, and most importantly putting it into practice.

Get in touch with us at if you want an update on how we’re getting on…