Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists

Events

Signal or Noise? Overcoming the 'distraction problem'

Monday 6 June 2016

There's an ebb and flow in decision making as much as there is with execution of strategy - your decisions aimed at achieving your stated intentions. That ebb and flow is significantly influenced by your organisation's ability to differentiate between mere 'noise' that is distracting you, and a true signal of potential change. The critical question that you must answer and then respond to is 'how good are we at separating mere noise from a true signal?'

Let's first show the problem as it exists in the real world, not in the text book answers.

1) Your organisation must focus.

That is true. But here's the trap: too much focus means that invariably you will develop tunnel vision and decrease your chances of spotting something truly important. In that light, tunnel vision sets you on a path to much higher operational risk because you start to ignore even the very loud signals that indicate danger. The small (and often earlier) important signs get missed completely. In organisations where such a state of thinking exists, any and ALL outside opinions that suggest alternatives to what is already 'locked in' (i.e your psychological 'tunnel vision') are dismissed as irrelevant. In fact organisations will start exiting those people who are merely acting in the company's best interest by highlighting a possible problem. Simply, the focus becomes the problem

2) Your organisation is too expansive in its outlook.

Some organisations spot any and every signal and treat them all as worthy of attention and a response. They've become trapped by the noise in their environment and jump at every single thing that hits their desk. Competitor is doing this, government is doing that, people are saying this, shop floor is saying that. Every bit of noise causes a response. And in the end, you'll die from all that uneccessary activity, either because you get too tired jumping from spot fire to spot fire, or you'll exhaust your precious resources (people, time, capability etc) on things that make no difference. Simply, focus becomes the problem.

Resolving these two focus issues, overcoming the 'signal or noise' challenge comes down to the connection between organisational strategy and it's willingness to be accountable to progress. So here then is a quick ABC to bring into your company.

A: Know where you are headed

B: Know in Advance what an OFF track signal and an ON Track signal would look like

C: Maintain flexibility in thinking by assessing EACH new noise/signal against the following question 'Does this look like it could be an indicator that suggests we might be or are OFF Track? or alternatively, does it suggest we could be or are ON Track?'

Answer that and you can quickly filter noise from the stuff that is useful. And you'll not get blinded into dismissing useful signals as noise, or treating noise as a useful signal. It's an important step. Best of luck


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