Valley Behavioral HealthValley Behavioral Health

by Tara Ayrton

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

1. Message transmit speed and saturation not measured

If your executive management team designated Tuesdays as “green t-shirt day” how many Tuesdays would pass before employee participation reached 100%?

This example seems simple enough but one very critical assumption is built into this example: That you have a process of tracking “T-shirt Tuesday participation” over time.

In order for a group to evidence that communication occurred, a specified change in behavior must be observed and measured.

Organizations fail when they fail to adapt. Positive adaptation is a product of clean and efficient communication. Without a formal process to measure and improve message transmission efficiency, your company will be at a significant disadvantage, will inevitably fall behind and may gradually fail.

I recommend you establish a process whereby message saturation and duration can be tested a few times annually. Make it fun! At Valley, we recently challenged Program Directors to disseminate a survey link to all staff in their units. We set up a process and informed Directors that once an employee completed their three-question survey, a set of warm clothes would be donated to our homeless services unit on their behalf.

We then tracked how long it took each unit to reach 100% survey completion. Sure, many of the larger units never did reach 100%, but it did establish a baseline. A baseline each Director has vowed to beat next time.

At Valley, we are developing innovative ways to empirically track communication efficiency and are developing organizational designs which minimize message attenuation.

The attenuation graph is an example of a visual representation of percent loss of message as time or layers of bureaucracy are added. Developing and sharing this visualization of message loss can be a powerful educational tool.

2. Message distortion levels not measured

If your executive management team designated Tuesdays as “green t-shirt day” how many employees would show up wearing blue, black, or sea foam (a shade of green, but not “true” green) shirts? 

Message saturation and duration testing, as we have learned, is critical, but how many times are messages transmitted, only to be received in a distorted form?

Inflection adjustment, sarcasm use, or simple lack of clarity in message transmission can result in the wrong behavioral change. This distortion can be more damaging than a team not getting a message at all. We borrowed again from the science of sound, and refer to this as the signal to noise ratio.

The science of sound has developed methods of measuring sound absorption and dissipation and distortion. We are borrowing heavily from this science as we adapt their learning to our organizational learning and adaptation.

We are borrowing heavily from the “science of sound” as we measure and redesign our communication systems.

3. Staff training curriculum and processes not dynamic

Staff training curriculum not “dynamically” influenced by the most recent set of performance metrics will inevitably become stale and useless. Whether training on compliance, clinical outcomes, customer satisfaction, or budget performance, the foundation of effective training, organizational learning and adaptation is the incorporation of current performance metrics. Incorporation of most recent performance data into training materials, combined with experiential learning methods can produce the Holy Grail of training: dynamic knowledge.

Dynamic knowledge steps beyond just “know about” and steps into performance. It is actually doing something with the information, working with it, building skills and understanding on a deeper level.

Dynamic knowledge is to gain a feel for something, to internalize information and have it become real and active in the learner’s world.

Minimizing attenuation and signal to noise ratio isn’t enough. New and existing staff must be trained routinely as new information is discovered or process requirements change. Training must result in dynamic knowledge and the existence of dynamic knowledge must be measured.

4. Lack of prompt “business critical” feedback loops 

Feedback loops are a critical component for organizational learning and adaptation to occur. Single loop learning processes at a minimum must be established so that dynamic training and knowledge acquisition can develop and spread.

Double loop learning and even triple loop processes can be developed over time as team sophistication grows.

Failure to institutionalize learning will compromise organizational agility and adaptation.

By combining the sciences of sound, cutting edge education and organizational theory, a company can move a long way toward becoming a force of adaptation and innovation. But without developing a common language, the true realization of synergy from these concepts will remain elusive.

5. Failure to establish a common performance language

The concepts touched on in this blog must be uniformly defined shared and understood. Leadership must make certain that words and concepts like:

  • Attenuation
  • Message Saturation and Duration Testing
  • Signal to Noise Ratio
  • Dynamic Knowledge
  • Dynamic Curriculum
  • Experiential Learning
  • Loop Learning

are taught at New Employee Orientation and leadership training to ensure that they become routine nomenclature within the culture of the company.

Summary

Use the five points listed above as the baseline of an assessment for your company or department. Work to develop your understanding of what is in place and what isn’t. Then act.

You could even start with using your traditional communication channels to launch and monitor a message push similar to “T-Shirt Tuesday”. Let me know what you come up with! I hope this has been helpful. I look forward to our next meeting together.

Tara_Ayrton
About Tara_Ayrton