From feeding-back to feeding-forward: managerial feedback as a trigger of change in SMEs

Alexandros Psychogios (Birmingham City Business School, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Feim Blakcori (School of Business, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Leslie Szamosi (CITY College, International Faculty of the University of Sheffield, Thessaloniki, Greece)
Nicholas O’Regan (University of the West of England Bristol, Bristol, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Publication date: 11 February 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore and theorize the process of managerial feedback in relation to change in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).


This research embraces a qualitative methodology in the context of manufacturing SMEs. Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews, and observations conducted with various managers in six SMEs operating in three countries, it is argued that managers benefit more by using daily, ongoing, feedback as a trigger of change in their organizations.


The findings suggest that there is an overall view that managers appear to be reluctant to change existing processes using formalized feedback mechanisms, which runs counter-intuitive to the literature. In contrast, informal methods of feedback work better in enhancing organizational change. Moreover, another two features of feedback enhance this process, namely, benefits oriented and confidence oriented. As such, this study contributes to existing knowledge and practice by proposing a three-fold form of feedback through which managers expand their perspectives of feedback from feeding-back to feeding-forward thereby enhancing the opportunities of triggering change.

Research limitations/implications

Feedback should merely be considered as a dynamic and socially constructed managerial practice. A practice where actors not only exchange information and share knowledge, but also act, react and interact with each other as they constantly rethinking the change process. The proposed aspect of feedback emphasizes knowledge therapeutically and in combination with the dialogical discourse (practical illustration) that increases the odds for capturing change as a natural, rather than exceptional.

Practical implications

Practitioners, as such, may wish to consider the terminology used when it comes to studying change and its implementation in a crisis context. Using deformalized managerial feedback mechanisms to tackle a formal phenomenon like “change” could help avoid employees perceiving a negative connotation, causing resistance or confusion and feeling threatened. Therefore, the authors suggest that practitioners, during development initiatives on modernizing or altering organizational processes, consider replacing the term “change” as a formal concept.


It is an investigation from an exploratory perspective in studying and understanding the causes, factors and modalities that trigger managerial feedback toward organizational change in manufacturing SMEs.



This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.


Psychogios, A., Blakcori, F., Szamosi, L. and O’Regan, N. (2019), "From feeding-back to feeding-forward: managerial feedback as a trigger of change in SMEs", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 18-42.

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