Improving Your Team’s “Signal to Noise” Ratio revamp_odeqd23 August 1, 2012

Improving Your Team’s “Signal to Noise” Ratio

Imagine you are in a room with loud music. Next to you is a friend who hardly hears what you have to say. You have two choices: Yell louder – or turn down the music. What will you do?

Many times, our workplaces are just like that: Too much competes for our attention – deadlines, last minute request, surprises. A constant level of high urgency acts like noise. Fechner, a physicist born in eighteen hundreds, formulated a “psychophysical law”. What matters, he found, is the signal-to-noise ratio. If you want to get heard – you need not speak louder. You can turn down the music.

Many teams and leaders we coach are tempted to act with more effort – to yell louder. This takes the form, e.g., of working harder, sending more emails, scheduling more meetings. What’s your favorite? And what, on the contrary, would it look like to reduce the noise?

The radical idea is not to understand why this matters – the radical idea is to do it in the midst of an ever accelerating work environment.

Here are some “radical” suggestions – radical because doing them will challenge you and your team members:

    Have you stopped addressing issues that you think really matter – because the discussion won’t go anywhere practical? What does it take to try again?
    When was the last time you considered if all ongoing activities are really necessary? If you or your team had to start now – what essential activities would you take on now? What gets in the way of dropping ineffective or low-priority activities?
    What are major sources of noise – distracting, taking away, side-lining your vital few efforts? How can you cut the noise?
    How often to you and your team schedule explicit time to talk about the HOW of your collaboration – team guidelines in regard to communication, feedback, dealing with disagreement, decision-making?
    Imagine for a moment (possibly together as a team) what would be possible if indeed you were to reduce the noise level… What is there to emerge when the static recedes?

Like acquiring any new habit, fighting noise is intentional. Seeing what that effort brings to teams, we think it’s more than worth it.