Managing via Dials

Often, I will have feedback for a product manager, marketer or designer when they are writing text. I find that people have a hard time taking the feedback in a very specific way. If you say it’s too serious, they assume you want to take it to the extreme. As if there are only 2 settings. People naturally think in binary terms; it’s either fun or not, verbose or completely word free.

The reality is that text exists in a spectrum where you can change things slightly and have a big impact. I find the best way to give feedback is in terms of speedometer dials. For example:

Rather than saying, “The text isn’t action oriented, Fix it.” you can say, “Here is a dial of how action-oriented your text is. You are currently at level 3. If it was level 6, what would it look like? What about level 4?” Turn the conversation into baby steps and give someone an idea of how far off it is.

The same holds true for UI Design. Let’s say there is a button that the user needs to see. You might say, “It is too hard to see.” which is vague. Better to say, “The visibility of this button seems to be level 2. I think it’s importance is such that it should be higher. How high would you go with this button and still feel comfortable? 3? 5? 9? Why?”

The dials automatically create an atmosphere for discussion where the binary feedback does not. I find this technique is extremely useful in collaboration and mentoring.

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