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How to Provide Great Feedback

As a DBA you will encounter processes, code and design decisions within your environment that require change for the better. The most common driver for such change is performance improvement. Oftentimes the changes you wish to drive will require design and implementation by someone other than yourself.

Proposing changes(improvements) to an authors existing code/process/design can be a prickly subject (See: The Politics of SQL Server Performance) and it is important that you approach such discussions effectively in order to achieve the result your desire.

"Avoid getting Sumo Slapped"

Here are some tips I have found to be helpful when considering how to provide effective feedback:

Approach with finesse

  • Meet and or discuss the change directly with the author.
  • Ideally discuss on a one-on-one basis, at least initially.
  • Choose an appropriate time for your discussions.
    • If the author is busy troubleshooting a production item choose a more suitable time, when they will be more responsive to your approach.

Be clear and specific about what the current issue is

  • What process, stored procedure, design decision is it?
  • Identify any undesirable qualities
    • Slow query performance
    • High index fragmentation
    • Excessive CPU utilisation
  • Touch on business level implications briefly and lightly.

Praise the good points of current work/implementations

  • Show that you can see quality in the work of the author.
  • Highlight what you currently like about the existing implementation.
    • Design
    • Problem solving approach
    • Feature usage
    • Anything…………..
  • Perhaps something similar could be incorporated into the solution?

Put forward your proposed change

  • Briefly highlight/summarise your proposed change/improvement.
  • Avoid technical details and proof of concept at this stage unless they are invited specifically.

Set them up for success

  • Offer to be available to provide support and assistance if desired but leave the next action in the hands of the author.

Put yourself in the position of the author

  • Consider things from their perspective
  • How would you wish to receive the feedback you are providing?

"I thought I told you no Cursors"

Providing great feedback in order to effectively promote change can a tricky task sometimes and incorporating these tips will assist you on your way.

Do you have any tips for providing great feedback? Feel free to share them using the comments section below.

We’ve looked at what we should do in order to provide great feedback but what about what not to do. It would be great to get some of your thoughts on this. Perhaps you can think of a time when you or a colleague received some not so well thought out feedback. What do you consider to be things to avoid when providing feedback?

Next time, How Not to Provide Feedback…….just kidding.

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John Sansom - SQL Server DBA in the UK

John Sansom (Blog | Twitter) is a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) of SQL Server and publisher of the free SQL community ebook DBA JumpStart, an inspiring collection of advice for Data Professionals, written by 20 SQL Server experts. Awarded the Microsoft Community Contributor(MCC) award, John is a prolific blogger and can be found regularly writing about SQL Server and Professional Development over at www.johnsansom.com.


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