Chapter 26. The Signal Network

I spend a lot of time listening. A nontrivial act for me because my mind…it wanders. However, I’ve got a system. Feet flat on the ground, slightly clenched jaw, staring you straight in the eyes. I am full-body listening. You have my complete attention. I am not missing a word.

We humans are experts at instinctively knowing where attention is focused. In a 1:1 situation, all it takes is a subsecond glance at my watch to indicate to the other party that my focus is elsewhere. I am not listening. In that instant, the quality of discourse plummets because the listening contract is broken.

My educated guess is that 50% of my job as a manager is information acquisition, assessment, and redistribution. It is my primary job, and the efficiency with which I do this directly contributes to the velocity of the team.

Critical Freshness

In thinking about all the listening I’ve done and information I’ve acquired, I discovered I have a mental model for classifying information. Figure 26-1 shows what it looks like.

This grid has two axes. The vertical axis measures the criticality of a given piece of information. Critical information might look like:

  • Jake is about to quit.

  • The arrival rate of critical bugs is rapidly increasing.

  • A meeting just finished between engineering and sales where they were at each other’s throats. Nothing was resolved. Everyone left the meeting mad.

Figure 26-1. Grid for determining criticality and freshness of information

The ...

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