Feedback and its Applications

By Dana Wexler
Operations Improvement Supervisor at United Parcel Service; IIE Young Professional Chair, Northeast Region
B.S., industrial and systems engineering, Rutgers University

A few weeks ago an article in Wired magazine caught my attention.

Cleverly named the Mental Machine, the July issue was focused on our kind’s response to live feedback and its application in everyday life.

As demonstrated in the article, “the Feedback Loop”, it is astonishing how the installation of a motion sensor detecting one’s speed can mend a heavy foot habit or the consumption display on a hybrid’s dashboard can lead to more energy responsible driving.

Timing is everything–immediate feedback can provide relevance one can take action upon.

It has been established and reaffirmed since the 18th century that the feedback loop works in four stages:

  1. Gathering data or evidence
  2. Relaying information in the relevant context
  3. Recognizing consequences
  4. Correcting action

In my opinion, the most important elements would be measuring and relaying the gathered information in the right context. First, we need to obtain the right lead indicator that would make a difference in a timely manner.
Second, we create the context of the feedback. Bearing in mind, feedback medium should always be carefully considered when applying it; incorrect application can lead to mislead results and personal conflicts. Lastly, corrective action is based on the premise that one is inherently more likely to achieve a goal he can believe that he can achieve.

Therefore why not apply it in order to improve our production elements? A live display of a Finished Goods processed per hour is now available more than ever due to technological advances; it can also be percentage completion of a given order.

Harnessing People Compliance has always been industry giants’ most significant challenge. Providing the opportunity to correct behavior based on self initiative can become a positive trend change at no conflict.

As Industrial Engineers, we should never surrender to the common view of “no news is good news.” Always be ready for feedback at any moment in order to provide a more effective solution – commit to the development of the feedback loop.

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