Filtration is the process of filtering. It is the second sub-blade of Process in the Windmill Theory within Powered By Change (PBC). Filtration is really the process by which an organisation takes information and interprets that information into understanding. This is super important because there is a vast amount of information in the world now than there ever has been. It is becoming increasingly difficult to understand which parts of this information matter. That is, it is difficult to distinguish the noise from the signal. Noise is really the information that can be ignored as it doesn’t really contribute anything of significant value, and in fact can be more of a distraction. Whereas signal is the information that needs to be paid attention to. Therefore, it is important to be able to distil what is meaningful from the junk. Having such a filtration mechanism is in itself a part of how processes are frameworked. That’s why it is so important and also the reason that filtration is its own sub-blade. 

In relation to existing processes, companies need to have an understanding if the level of effort that is needed to achieve something exceeds the value that is delivered. This is needed because there may be instances where it is undertaking certain activities that deliver less value than the energy required to generate them at the expense of one’s that may deliver higher value for much less effort. Being able to effectively filter such activities out will lead to the achievement of a better return on investment (ROI) and more effective utilisation of scarce and finite resources. Often, this dilemma is what materialises in the sunk cost fallacy.

There is a belief that in instances where a lot of money or effort has been expended to produce a result, even when it would be better to stop and change direction, this decision is often not made because of the belief that significant investment has already been made that it may as well be completed. The result is pouring more resources into something that has a lower rate of return at the expense of something that could deliver a much better return. There is no consideration given to the second ROI metric, which is Risk Of Inaction. If the company continues to plough resources into such activities it will lose other, more valuable opportunities simply by taking no action and continuing on blindly. 

The best companies have really effective filtration processes in place to deal with this issue. One example is Proctor and Gamble. They have a Collect+Develop program, which has a  crystal clear filtration mechanism about what it is the company is trying to achieve, how it’s going to process information and how it’s going to deal with collaborators. However, a vital inclusion when seeking to put in filtration processes is to ensure that there’s an attention management assessment in place. In both the PBC book and the platform there is an Attention Management Matrix. This provides a way of enabling filtration to happen.

Within the matrix there are 4 quadrants, in which to plot all of the activities being undertaken by the company to determine which should continue and which should discontinue. These quadrants are:

  1. Minimise activities that require low effort but deliver not much value should be minimised. There are undoubtedly other activities that could be pursued for less effort. 
  2. Maximise – activities that deliver a lot of value but require not much effort should be maximised. Such activities do not consume much time, money or attention but generate a load of value and return. These should absolutely be maximised. 
  3. Avoid – activities that take a lot of effort and also deliver only a little value should be avoided. It makes no sense to spend a lot of time, money or attention doing something for little return. 
  4. Apply – activities that deliver a lot of value but also require a lot of effort should be applied. The reason for this is that over time if energy and effort is applied to such activities it will eventually be possible to achieve them but with using less energy so they can eventually move to the Maximise quadrant. This occurs for reasons such as the development of economies of scale and finding more efficient ways of doing things. 

This matrix is incredibly powerful and useful to discern what activities should be pursued versus those that probably should not. 

Using the lens of the PBC solution it is possible to ensure that the level of filtration achieved is on point. The tools within the solution enable this to be mapped out for any part of the organisation to ensure the activities being undertaken are the best ones to achieve the company’s objectives. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. There is a need to have a process in place that assists in filtering out the noise from the signal. 
  2. The attention management matrix can be used as a filtration mechanism to identify activities to maximise versus minimise and those activities to apply versus avoid. This can be applied to any part of the organisation.
  3. An effective filtration process helps improve efficiency and generates a better investment return as it’s possible to quickly discern what activities to pursue. This enables action to be taken quickly and can help to reduce the risk of inaction. 

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