Using the feedback loop approach within the cause-and-effect model in the context of digital solution development

Gwenola Michaud - GM Consulting

Writen by Gwenola Michaud 

feedback loop

Exploring new opportunities with our team can lead to better and more innovative solutions for our users

The cause-and-effect model is based on the notion that every input or “cause” creates an output or “effect”. This model is fundamental and represents two elements:

  1. the first, on the cause side, relates to our responsibility for our actions. For each action taken, we should consider its effect and consequence;
  2. the second, on the effect side, relates to freedom of choice and actions. For each unsatisfactory outcome or situation, if we identify the cause, we can adjust the condition in order to create a new or better outcome.

Accordingly, responsibility for our actions and freedom of choice and actions are fundamental aspects of the cause-and-effect model. Good! But how can we effectively adopt and implement this model in our projects?

The feedback loop: a practical tool to support the cause-and-effect model

The feedback loop, which is based on a ‘listening, trying, understanding and adjusting’ approach, is particularly effective in adapting the cause-and-effect model into continuous improvement. It is also a practical way to explore root causes for breakages, underperforming features, and to iterate to fine-tune or optimize situations. The process allows teams to try, fail, learn, and then try again in a different manner. By connecting the output of an action with its input, teams can drive a culture of continuous learning and improvement.


What’s the feedback loop in the context of digital solution development?

When applied to project management in general, employing a feedback loop approach allows teams to monitor the progress of a project and to refine plans, adjust timing, costs, or quality-level estimates in response to given indicators. In the case of digital solution development and delivery, the feedback loop is implemented at multiple levels: including how requirements are captured and understood, the roll out and validation of the design phase, the development and implementation of internal testing, and finally user validation. Multiple teams play a role in this process, including users, designers, developers, and testing and validation teams.

feedback loop

The pitfalls in digital solution development when teams don’t employ a feedback loop

Digital solution development requires the inputs of multiple teams, functionalities, codes, and technologies to realize the end-product. By its very nature, it presents multiple occasions for things to go wrong or perform sub-optimally. Here are just some examples where the use or not of a feedback loop is concerned:

  1. No feedback loop within at least one phase of the solution development. Without a feedback loop there’s no iteration during the understand and requirement-gathering phase, the design phase, product development, testing or validation. Product teams who base their decisions on internal understanding of requirements without considering the end users risk a final solution that does not respond to the needs and expectations of this group.
  2. Disconnect between user validation and user requirement. Consumer teams responsible for validation of the solution are not always those who defined the initial requirements. Product development can be a long process and changes to team structure where stakeholders move in and out during the development phase often happen and can threaten the overall efficiency of development and validation.
  3. Solution requirement definition does not include criteria for product validation. The team has defined the ‘what’ of the solution, but not how to test and validate that product. Requirement gathering is lengthy and difficult, requiring knowledge and domain-specific understanding. However, it is also key to complete requirement phase with specifications on the validation side. Without any specification, testing teams won’t have a clear framework against which to evaluate the final solution.
  4. Lack of connection between teams through the entire solution development cycle. Teams can be dispersed in various places around the globe, with different work hours and culture, and competing objectives which can distract focus from the common objective. This situation occurs when communication between team leaders is irregular or opaque, and when individual team interests are put ahead of global cooperation and broader objectives.

Solutions to consider to foster a productive feedback loop

  1. Each Team Lead takes ownership of monitoring internal work and reporting coherent updates of their team’s activity in order to foster internal feedback and take appropriate actions.
  2. Global teams take responsibility for closing the gap between requirement definition and solution validation phases. When the project is drawn out and/or key stakeholders are replaced, iterating around requirement definition and validation criteria is highly recommended.
  3. Empower technical and domain experts and key stakeholders to participate in refinement of requirements with an eye on the defined validation criteria. As the solution is developed, it is essential to check, refine, and adjust the requirements and validation criteria to ensure ongoing development and validation remains in alignment with users’ needs, and accounts for evolutions of needs and expectations over time.
  4. Empower team leads to exchange feedback aligned with the common objective while respecting the differing needs and cultures of the various teams involved in the digital solution development. Sharing feedback fosters a cooperative spirit in the pursuit of a common goal, and ensuring learning, progress and growth within the global team will enable better collaboration. Regular touchpoints which center around the global objectives will ensure effective communication, understanding of respective interests and challenges, leading to improved performance.

As leaders, we need to establish and maintain the feedback loop to monitor and resolve misunderstandings, to iterate around users’ evolving needs, and to communicate team effort and progress. More specifically, our role is to assemble the technical and domain experts needed to realize the software solution, and leverage their knowledge such that the global team can take relevant decisions aligned with users’ needs and technical development capabilities. Above all, leaders should foster the collaborative spirit that makes the various development phases a worthwhile journey for all team members, building team pride which delivers better, more valuable solutions for end users.

Relevant opportunities for the feedback loop approach during digital development projects

Continuous improvement via the feedback loop approach is a valuable tool in your arsenal, both as a leader and for your team. Many processes are amenable to the deployment of a feedback loop approach:

  1. Sharing the same backlog view with key performance indicators that capture data and enable teams to act on lessons learnt,
  2. Regular requirement-gathering phases, either for definition or refinement, validation criteria definition or refinement, with lived and reviewed documentation for requirements and validation criteria,
  3. Internal meetings such as planning discussions, daily standups, retrospectives and debrief sessions, and progress updates,
  4. Global meetings with sprint planning, refinement sessions and demos with requirement iteration, development updates, validation phases and lessons learnt,
  5. The feedback loop should focus on spreading and amplifying technical and domain expert input, in order to provide the best solutions for our users.

Would you need more info on the application of feedback loop for your projects, please contact me at

gm consulting rectangle

Optimize your project success and delivery !

360° Energy and Environment Consultant

Geoscience & Monitoring Consulting (GMC) is delivering project management and digital solutions to guide innovative and technical leaders.

Gwenola Michaud - GM Consulting

Gwenola Michaud

360° Energy and Environment Consultant

20 years of expertise in managing people and projects, as well as developing, testing and delivering software solutions to improve team success and business growth.

More Articles

root cause analysis
How root cause analysis can help your solution implementation
gm consulting 80 20 pareto first things first
How to apply “first things first” when developing and delivering digital solutions
feedback loop
Using the feedback loop approach within the cause-and-effect model in the context of digital solution development