Continental Management Reviews

I hate driving on the continent.

It’s hard work.  It isn’t just the fact that foreigners will insist on driving on the wrong side of the road (though that doesn’t help), the real problem is that I am constantly bombarded with information that I don’t quite understand: road signs, billboards, lane markings, traffic lights… and because it is all foreign it is all different, it sort of makes sense, but only if I have time to concentrate, and that is an issue with the way I drive a car, things move quickly, I don’t have time to concentrate.

There are two problems:

  1. Unfamiliarity: the important things, the road signs and lane markings are all slightly different from what I am used to.  It takes me longer to work out what they are and what they mean.  I can’t rely on my memory.
  2. Distraction: the unimportant things all shout for my attention, adverts are eye catching, I notice and watch the people, the scenery and buildings are diverting.  It is really hard to filter out what I should worry about from what you shouldn’t

The same problems exist at work

I have sat in many performance review meetings that have had exactly the same problems:

  1. Unfamiliarity: the information, measures and structure of the discussion keeps changing.  It takes time to get my mind around what the data is telling me, information I want isn’t where I expect it to be.
  2. Distraction, “stuff” that isn’t relevant is included, data and information is thrown in “just in case”.  If that isn’t enough it is painted with psychedelic colours, backgrounds, fonts and chart styles.  All to put me off the scent.  Information grabs my attention that really shouldn’t, and the important stuff passes me by.

Most performance review meetings are a triumph of confusion over clarity

So what can you do about it?

  1. Ensure familiarity: be very clear on the structure of the meeting, always run it the same way, with the same information, in the same place, at the same time.  Use your audience’s memory to make it easier for you to get the message over.
  2. Remove all the distractions, simplify data presentation so that only the core messages are passed on, don’t give people the opportunity to get confused or distracted.  Once you are really clear what the message is present it in a way that is totally unambiguous (There is a great video below that shows what I mean).

Take a lesson from the road sign designers

STOP means STOP the world over, why would that be?

What else could you do to be clear?

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  1. Hi James,
    Great points about how focus on the familiar and simplicity aids decision making. It’s way too easy to fiddle with metrics and to add too much data. It takes guts and skill and courage and tenacity and all sorts of other great adjectives to create the situation that you talk about. I wish there were more people out there doing that then, perhaps, we could then reduce the number and length of ‘meetings’ that can get in the way of doing good and productive stuff.


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