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Ingo Kallenbach

Leadership in an agile world (6): peer feedback

How you can sustainably promote the development potential of your employees through feedback at eye level
Classic feedback is often limited to the annual appraisal interviews, which have fallen into disrepute due to their hierarchical structure. In an increasingly individualized working world, one-dimensional teaching of the employee about his or her performance potential as an artifact of post-industrial corporate culture is increasingly being criticized. A new approach describes "peer feedback", which is already firmly integrated into the daily work of agile pioneers (such as sipgate).

In the sixth part of our series, read how you can use this method to establish a constructive and continuous exchange at eye level in your company.

What is peer feedback?

Regular and above all constructive feedback is and remains one of the most important building blocks for personal development. But how can such feedback be designed in agile, structured companies that know little about hierarchy and offer a high degree of individual freedom? The answer is: through "peer feedback".   
The term "peer" or "peer group" refers to the concept of a person's primary social reference group, which has a decisive influence on their world. Equally, the term is also used as an "interest group", which describes a connection of people for a certain period of time through the same interests as the employees in a company. According to this concept, peer groups are characterized by the constitutive principle of equality, in that they meet at eye level and do not differ significantly in knowledge, ability and decision-making powers. Accordingly, the feedback provider is no longer the manager, but an individually composed "peer group". Employees provide employees with feedback on their strengths and weaknesses with the aim of a continuous feedback process aimed at a timely and professional exchange.



How does peer feedback work?

There are no fixed rules for the peer feedback method according to which the process is to be designed. In principle, a number of key aspects must be taken into account to ensure a large, individual design scope. On the basis of our experience and the company Sipgate we have compiled the most important points for you:

The feedback taker makes an inquiry to 3-5 persons, from whom he would like an assessment of his performance potential, as required. The time can be freely chosen here, but it proves to be particularly useful to request a "peer feedback" after larger events, for example after the completion of a project.

A standardized questionnaire, which is available to all in the company, can be used as a basis for data collection. In principle, however, it is also possible to carry out a feedback round without a questionnaire. The feedback date itself can be set as an individual or group appointment.

A period of approximately 2 weeks should be scheduled between the invitation and the meeting so that the feedback providers can prepare for the interview. If a questionnaire is used, experience has shown that it takes about 4 weeks until all the questions have been answered, the report has been sent and everyone has been able to prepare for the interview.

An internal or external moderator should be available to support the process so that the feedback conversation can be moderated as neutrally and effectively as possible. Depending on the maturity of the organisation and its members, this can increasingly be handed over to "internal hands".

In preparation for the feedback round, the moderator (or feedback recipient) can formulate key questions that define the framework of the feedback more precisely, for example:

    Where do you see my development potential?
    Which of my strengths do you particularly value?
    What makes me unique for the company in your eyes?
    What did you find particularly helpful about our collaboration on Project XY?
    Where do you see opportunities for improvement here?

The feedback taker also prepares for the appointment by thinking about the process and his own self-perception. It makes sense to present your personal intention and to signal openness and trust in the feedback recipients. The feedback recipients should comment as little as possible themselves or even justify themselves for their behaviour, but rather take a passive but attentive listener role. Questions for understanding are allowed.

And after the "Peer-Feedback?

In times of self-determined, agile work, prompt feedback on personal performance is undoubtedly an important source of information for developing one's own potential. However, feedback alone does not generate any development, but can only provide hints and incentives for its design. This is how the actual work begins after the feedback, namely to set the development in motion. Many people ask themselves at this point how they are to process the information from the feedback rounds, or "How can I use my strengths more effectively in my day-to-day work? How can I take a more structured approach to my daily tasks and thus improve my performance?"

It is always particularly important to provide employees with a kind of "personal development companion" to show them step by step how they can optimally develop their personal potential. Employees can select such a development consultant, for example, from the group of managers, who then assume responsibility for their development process in the sense of a coach. Alternatively, employees can also be chosen as development support staff if they have the appropriate motivation and competence. In this way it also becomes clear who the employees regard as a suitable managerial personality. They can thus provide some kind of indirect feedback to the management level.

Furthermore, the involvement of (real) customers, e.g. through a questionnaire or direct request for feedback, would be ideal. Because: peer feedback should also not be used for one's own navel-gazing; the primary focus should always be on the market and the customer.


Peer feedback" is an agile and constructive alternative to one-dimensional and hierarchically structured annual appraisal interviews. The effectiveness of the method certainly depends on the maturity and culture of the organisation and its members.

Work related feedback from one's own colleagues is particularly valuable, as this requires a high degree of personal responsibility and self-organisation. In comparison to the appraisal interview, a multidimensional feedback can also be spoken of, since several persons from different contexts assess the performance of an individual. The equal exchange among the employees leads to an increase in self-reflection and promotes their communication.

Ideally, peer feedback is expanded to include feedback from clients.

(Editorial realization: Corinna Brucker)

Are you interested in peer feedback or would you like to learn more about this method? Then please inform yourself further about our services in this area or simply contact us.


Further blog posts from the series "Leadership in an agile world":

Leading in an agile world (1): the concept of agility

Leadership in an agile world (2): "working out loud"

Leadership in an agile world (3): scrum

Leadership in an agile world (4): barcamps

Leadership in an agile world (5): retrospectives

Leadership in an agile world (6): peer feedback

Leadership in an agile world (7): transparency

Leadership in an agile world (8): Delegation Poker

Leadership in an agile world (9): crossfunctional teams

Leadership in an agile world (10): face time



Kallenbach, Ingo (2016): Leadership in a healthy organisation. Extraordinary performance by means of potential development. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel