In The Fifth Disci­pline, Peter Senge describes learning orga­ni­za­tions “where people contin­u­ally expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expan­sive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collec­tive aspi­ra­tion is set free, and where people are contin­u­ally learning to learn together.”

Once we start to become conscious of how we think and interact, and begin devel­oping capac­i­ties to think and interact differ­ently, we will already have begun to change our orga­ni­za­tions for the better. Those changes will ripple out around us, and rein­force a growing sense of capa­bility and confi­dence.” — The Fifth Disci­pline Field­book, p. 48

Here is a simple eval­u­a­tion tool devel­oped by Inter­ac­tion Asso­ciates for teams at Boeing that stretches teams to even higher levels of perfor­mance.

Plus iden­ti­fies what is going well, what the indi­vidual or team wants to main­tain and build upon the next time.
Delta (∆ — the Greek symbol for change or gap) signi­fies those things that might be changed to improve the process or activity. Deltas are written with a posi­tive outcome in mind, instead of “what went wrong.”

Once this exer­cise is incor­po­rated into ongoing meet­ings, it can usually be done in 5 minutes. You’ll find the level of partic­i­pa­tion in meet­ings improves dramat­i­cally after only a few sessions.

Here’s how to use it.

On chart paper or a write­board, draw a large “T”. Label “What worked?” and “What could we do differ­ently?” above each column.

Iden­tify the things that are working first (Plus); then list the Deltas — the items to do differ­ently. Begin the Deltas with a verb to make them action-oriented.

Clarify assump­tions and gener­al­ized descrip­tions. “This was great,” will need more infor­ma­tion to be mean­ingful — “What specif­i­cally was appealing to you?” “What made it great?”

Act on the Deltas as soon as possible and bring the chart to the next meeting as a reminder of actions for focus.

Keep a cumu­la­tive log to peri­od­i­cally check as the Pluses and Deltas become habit with the group.

Uses and variations

Plus-Delta can be used for feed­back in any setting with indi­vid­uals or groups of any size.

  • meet­ings
  • project conclu­sion or mid-point
  • personal reflec­tion
  • end of day
  • end of week

I’ve used this with my niece and nephew on their visits to Los Angeles in an effort to improve each day and a goal of making this trip the “best ever.”

Vari­a­tions include having indi­vid­uals write on post-its, adding + or ∆ on each, and post on the chart. Or you can increase anonymity by using a paper eval­u­a­tion form. The key to building orga­ni­za­tional learning is to share the results.

Adding “Appre­ci­a­tions of Others” before the Plus-Delta exer­cise can improve safety within the group and the quality of the Plus-Delta feed­back.

For your customers, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba have devel­oped a Customer Plus-Delta as part of their Creating Customer Evan­ge­lists process. For more infor­ma­tion, see: