The NOISE Analysis
The most important part of developing a business is mapping out strengths and weaknesses through strategic planning. A common method project leaders gravitate towards is SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. I, however, have never been a fan of this method. Frankly, I feel it lacks focus on improvements an organization can make, so I decided to start looking for alternatives to the classic SWOT analysis.
In one of my High-Performance Team Building classes, a smart friend of mine, Brian Pagkos, brought up the SNOT method: Strengths, Needs, Opportunities, and Threats. I liked the idea but wanted to take it a step further as I prepared for a strategic planning meeting.
I felt teams would benefit from solution-focused language that helps build upon their knowledge and goals. That’s when I came up with NOISE:
When planning a project, you must map out your team’s wants and needs, and understand the roadblocks ahead. The NOISE analysis is a planning technique that looks at what works and what should improve. It’s also a format that allows you to explore opportunities you never knew existed. Once you have an understanding of NOISE, your team will be more involved and your projects will flourish.
- Flip Chart Paper
- Lots of Post-it Notes
5–20 people is ideal. For larger groups, you can break into teams of six or less. Each team of six works independently and later gets together to share their notes. The facilitator can find commonalities in the notes and organize them. If you prefer to work in small groups, you can lead a separate series of focus groups with the individual teams.
At least three hours, but I’ve led this course over multiple days.
10 Guidelines for NOISE Analysis Success
1. Before the meeting, decide on a goal.
In order to do this, you may need to send pre-work to the participants. Here are some examples of pre-work:
- Share these eight planning questions and ask them to come prepared to share responses.
- Have them answer these questions also: What is your department accountable for? How can others help to accomplish accountability? Come prepared for each department to share their responses.
2. Create your NOISE chart.
On a piece of flip chart paper draw a circle in the middle. Create four quadrants radiating from the center circle. See below.
3. Try the analysis.
After reviewing the format with the group, ask them to grab flip chart papers, markers, and post-it notes. Take about 45 minutes to 1 hour as a team to complete as many responses to the NOISE analysis as possible. Start with Strengths, then progress to Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, and end with Exceptions.
Try your best and encourage people to share. Right now, we’re looking for quantity. We’ll evaluate the ideas later. If you feel people will be judgmental, ask them to work individually filling out Post-its by themselves for each section.
After people have had a chance to think and work by themselves, ask them to share their Post-it Notes on the NOISE area.
4. Go through each area with the team.
Starting with Strengths, sort through them in common affinity groups, finding clusters of ideas that may fit together. Recognize the ideas that may be outliers because they can be the breakthrough ideas.
Repeat the process in the other NOISE areas in this order: Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, and end with Exceptions.
5. Identify cluster categories.
Once you’re done sorting and clustering into common groups, the team will look for broad categories for each small cluster. For example ‘Communication between sales and production’ or ‘More knowledge of how to use our internal knowledge management system.’ As the group reaches an agreement on the broad categories, re-write these in the proper NOISE areas.
A problem-solving technique focused on solutions.
6. Now that everyone feels comfortable with the general categories…
Re-write them in each NOISE area and ask the team to “dot” vote on which they believe are most relevant.
7. Create measurements and milestones.
Take the general categories and ask the team to develop some short term measurement and milestones to show progress.
8. Create the “plan document.”
The team leader will gather all the broad categories and short term measurements/milestones for achievements, and type them up in a “Plan Document” to share with the team, ensuring they’re all in agreement.
9. Take time for feedback from the group.
Any feedback is taken into consideration and changes are made as needed. This Plan Document, along with all the great ideas, is now your improvement or strategic plan.
10. Routinely return to the plan document.
Check for relevancy and success. Prepare to deal with, and correct, setbacks.
What do you think? Could you see the NOISE analysis working for your next strategic planning meeting? Feel free to use it of course, and get in touch if you have any questions.