Team Performance – Signal to Noise Ratio

I’ve been re-reading L. RIchard Hackman’s book Leading Teams. If you have not read it, do. In Chapter 8 – Thinking Differently about Teams, Hackman states that even with excellent teams, the impediments to excellent performance are often exogenous-outside the team’s control. Management’s role here is to remove impediments, to create the conditions required for the team to perform. The following quote, in my view, just about says it all.

“Work teams… are somewhat akin to audio amplifiers: Whatever passes through the device-be it signal or noise-comes out louder.”

Building a cross-functional team without creating the organizational environment in which they can truly perform is a recipe for failure. If my signal to noise ratio is low, what am I going to do about it? Think about your own organization and what impediments to performance need to be removed.

  1. If my team comes to me with a problem, an impediment, what is my response?
  2. How effectively am I removing obstacles for my team?
  3. What can I do as manager or leader to allow my team to deliver faster, better, sustainably?
  4. What is the effect on my team’s motivation when I remove an impediment?
  5. Does my team TRUST that I will act with urgency to remove their top impediments?

Shouldn’t this culture be part of every organization’s leadership, at all levels?

We can all get better at this. Food for thought…


The Pomodoro Technique – Agile Personal Time Management

My good friend and colleague Catherine Louis told me about Pomodoro about a month ago. It’s a personal time management technique that calls for some light daily planning followed time-boxed working sessions called Pomodoros which are named for the tomato shaped kitchen timer, (Italian for tomato). I carry a stopwatch around or use the timer on my Mac. It’s too hard to carry my stove around on which is the only real kitchen timer I have. Each time-box is 25 minutes followed by a short break. You estimate workload in pomodoros, an analog to story points. Meaning that multiple pomodoros of work should be broken down into smaller jobs. Read more here. Having trouble concentrating? Try a 10 minute Pomodoro to start.

I wrote this post in less than one Pomodoro!

Cell phones – the empowerment of the underclass

I listened to a TED talk recently. IT was packed with great insights which I will comment on in future posts. The talk is by Shashi Tharoor on the topic of “Soft Power”. You can get the talk here . Soft Power is the ability to attract others. Really exciting talk. One of his comments was that in India, 15 million cell phones per month are sold! The cost of the handsets and the service is cheap, including free incoming calls on some plans. This means that street vendors to fishermen to stone masons can afford cell phones and take orders for their products and services. The empowerment of the underclass is the result of connectedness. Wonderful!

There’s so much more in this talk. Listen, you won’t be disappointed.

Connectors as Leaders

I’m a big believer that people who nurture their personal and professional networks ultimately exert the most influence in life. I have a few friends whom I consider Master Connectors. They are able to influence and lead across boundaries, mobilizing people to achieve great things. In a new world of self-organizing teams, where the traditional hierarchical leader is no longer the main source of power, it is the connector who leads, bringing people together, and causing change to happen. Here’s a good article from the metacool blog that describes this far better than I can.

The lesson is simple. Build and nurture your network. Connect people together. Cause the rich exchange of ideas between minds.