The difference between feedback and feedforward

by Apr 20, 2023

Feedback and feedforward

What is the difference between feedback and feedforward?


We have all heard the word feedback. Giving actionable feedback in a constructive way is considered to be a strong leadership skill and is the hallmark of an inclusive workplace and leadership style. Employees want and need to know how and where they have excelled and what they need to do differently. This is communicated in a number of ways. In formal hierarchical or 360 appraisals, or less formally and probably less successfully in hasty water cooler moments.

Feedback focuses on the past, on what has already taken place rather than future possibilities which is why the idea of “feedforward” is gaining traction.

But what is the difference between feedback and feedforward?

The term “feedforward” is a concept introduced by Marshall Goldsmith, Leadership Executive Coach is a technique that involves providing constructive input to help individuals improve their performance.  Feedforward focuses on future actions learned from previous experiences rather than a critique of a person’s past performance or actions.


feedback and feedforward

Future focused

The concept of feedforward is that it is future-focused. It is based on the idea that people are more likely to be receptive to suggestions for improvement when they are centered on opportunities for growth and development, rather than criticism of past mistakes. This allows individuals to learn from their experiences and make positive changes to improve their performance.

In a feedforward session, an individual describes a goal or behaviour they want to improve and then receives suggestions from others on how they can achieve that goal or behavior in the future. This technique can be particularly useful in team settings, where team members can provide each other with suggestions for improvement and support each other in achieving their goals.

Feedforward process

The Goldsmith methodology is multifaceted. He cites 11 reasons why feedforward is more successful than feedback.

  1. We can change the future. We can’t change the past.
  2. It can be more productive to help people learn to be “right,” than prove they were “wrong.”
  3. Feedforward is especially suited to successful people.
  4. Feedforward can come from anyone who knows about the task.
  5. People do not take feedforward as personally as feedback.
  6. Feedback can reinforce personal stereotyping and negative self-fulfilling prophecies.  can make positive changes in the future.
  7. Face it! Most of us hate getting negative feedback, and we don’t like to give it.
  8. Feedforward can cover almost all of the same “material” as feedback.
  9. Feedforward tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback.
  10. Feedforward can be a useful tool to apply with managers, peers, and team members.
  11. People tend to listen more attentively to feedforward than feedback


Better results

Goldsmith’s results find that using feedforward rather than feedback can improve the quality of communication in an organisation. It is more constructive, effective, and dynamic and contributes to building a culture of psychological safety with a focus on the future and not on mistakes made in the past.

Communication – 3 Plus International

It is also a way of reducing unconscious bias and focusing on what a person can do differently rather than “better.”


3Plus offers programmes on managing remote teams more inclusively. Find out more HERE.


3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Leadership and Competence Building or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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