Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Floating coffee grinds and … feedback

Feedback is a popular topic; however, sometimes an interesting way to illustrate a point is to provide a personal example. Let me explain how my recent experience with coffee grinds resulted in feedback.

I’m an avid coffee drinker. For a long time, I made coffee the standard way – measuring out coffee grinds and water. Last year, I became spoiled when I received a Keurig one-cup coffee maker for my birthday. I no longer have to worry about measuring coffee grinds; I put the K-cup in the dispenser and within seconds receive a fresh cup of coffee. No work or mess to clean up.

When I started at TBC, I noticed the company had a standard coffee maker – the type where you measure out the coffee grinds and water. I didn’t think it was a big deal to make coffee in the typical way again; after all that is how I used to make coffee. Still, when it was my turn to make the coffee, I could not remember the correct ratio of coffee grinds to water. The result? Extremely bitter coffee. But I learned from my mistake and became better at making coffee.

However, all was not what it seemed.

I made coffee the other day and I didn’t think twice about it, until the next day when a coworker asked who made the coffee the day before. While I was surprised someone would inquire about coffee from the past, I still anticipated a compliment of some sorts. So I smiled and said I made the coffee.

The coworker did not smile back, but instead asked, “Did you notice the coffee grinds floating around in your coffee cup?”

Hmm I did notice it, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. Some cups of coffee have a few floating coffee grinds, others don’t. I never really thought about it before.

He then playfully joked the coffee was more like eating coffee grinds than actually drinking coffee. To back up his point, he informed me when he cleaned out the coffee maker there were clumps of coffee grounds on the bottom.

My ratio of coffee grinds to water was a complete fail.

We eventually found out the reason for my coffee disaster. When I made the coffee, the coffee filter was not placed properly in the container, therefore not all the coffee grinds made it through the filter, and it was not brewed efficiently. The end result was floating coffee grinds in each cup of coffee. Yum.

I was a bit embarrassed but also grateful that my coworker told me about the issue. Without that feedback I might have made coffee the same way, which may have produced plenty of coffee grind snacks, not exactly the coffee experience we all would like.

Feedback is so important. Without feedback, we all operate with blind spots, which can get in the way of performance.

Now with the awareness I received from feedback, I know how to make a better cup of coffee.

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