See what’s really happening by clearing your “filters”

Check your filters - People Development Network
Check your filters - People Development Network

How to clear your filters

Early one recent morning, I turned on the hot water in my sink to shave. The water was hot and, um, rusty. I checked the other hot water outlets and found the same, copper-colored water. It was time to bring in Matt, our trusty plumbing and heating expert.

Matt came by within the hour and verified what we suspected: our water heater was on its last legs. It was nearly 20 years old, installed when our mountain abode was first built. Sediment and rust had built up over that time. We gave Matt the go ahead to replace it.

When Matt and his assistant installed the new water heater for us a few days later, Matt asked us which of the two tanks in our laundry room fed the water heater. We had no idea. There were no markings. He opened one up and found charcoal bits in a filter system. Apparently these tanks were also installed when our house was built. Designed to clean up the water from our well, the charcoal elements needed replacing regularly. We had never done that, and it is unlikely that the previous owner did anything with them. The filters had (probably) worked well early on, then did very little cleaning of the well water as it went through them.

Matt pulled the clogged tanks out and finished the installation of the new water heater. The next morning we enjoyed not only sparkling hot water but amazingly strong water pressure. It seems the two old charcoal filter tanks robbed us of decent water pressure the entire six years we’d lived in this house. We never knew the water pressure that was possible! Once those clogged filters were removed from the process, water flowed efficiently and vigorously through the house system.

What “Filters” Inhibit Clarity in your Organization?

In my work with senior leaders on culture refinement, I often find that their view of their organization’s “cultural reality” is not very accurate. These senior leaders do not know what employees think about “how it is to work” in their organization. They believe that the information given to them is accurate, but they really don’t know if it is fully accurate or not.

These have many “filters” in place, including people, systems, and structure. The filtering that occurs is usually not intentional – but it is powerful. Filtered information may not give a complete picture of a situation. Decisions that are made based on filtered information may not solve problems, at all.

Three Ways to Clear Your Filters

Leaders at all levels of an organization validate the information they receive when they:

  • Increase the Information Channels They Scan.
    They seek data from a variety of direct sources. They learn about processes from the vantage point of suppliers, employees, and customers.
  • Measure What’s Really Important.
    Sometimes the metrics that are easy to measure aren’t the right things to measure. They decide what metrics are truly worth paying attention to, then do that, every day.
  • Manage by Wandering Around.
    They connect with individual leaders, supervisors, and staff regularly. They wander around and share informal time with individuals. This times helps leaders learn what employees see as opportunities for improvement

Clear your filters. Learn what’s really happening, day in and day out, with employees and customers. Get a clear view and refine systems, policies, and procedures to remove frustration and enable action and service. Then, keep cleaning those filters . . . and modifying systems . . . and cleaning filters . . . regularly. Your employees and customers will love you for it.

Repurposed from a July 2011 on Chris’ main site, Driving Results Through Culture

S Chris Edmonds

S Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration. He writes books and articles and records podcasts. In his free time, he's a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.
S Chris Edmonds

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