Organizational pulse interference

Organizational well being for engineers. Measuring the pulse of an organization and combining psychology, physics and leadership to get some information out of it. I sometimes find these similarities between various disciplines and even though they may be obvious to people, I enjoy the thought game of trying to explain anomalies using another disciplines terminology.

So here we are, measuring the pulse of an organization and deciding on actions through pulse interference.

Measuring the pulse of an organization

Measuring the pulse of an organization is and has been a hot topic for some time now. Getting the feel for the organizations “pulse” is an arbitrary measurement of employee engagement. But measuring it is significantly harder than measuring your own pulse.

Modern tools allow these low barrier and quick questionnaires to be submitted throughout the organization and simply by averaging/summing the results give you an indication of the overall engagement as long as the sample size is big enough to be relevant.

The important aspect about a pulse, is not necessarily the absolute score, but rather the trend. As the pulse is measured systematically and on a constant basis, it allows for leaders to identify various touch points in processes, organizations, and even strategic action plans that reduce employee engagement and may even cause frustration.


In physics, interference is a phenomenon in which two waves superpose to form a resultant wave of greater, lower, or the same amplitude. Interference usually refers to the interaction of waves that are correlated or coherent with each other, either because they come from the same source or because they have the same or nearly the same frequency. Interference effects can be observed with all types of waves, for example, light, radio, acoustic, surface water waves or matter waves. (source: Wikipedia)

The interference of two waves. When in phase, the two lower waves create constructive interference (left), resulting in a wave of greater amplitude. When 180° out of phase, they create destructive interference (right). (source: wikipedia)

I claim that the organizational pulse is a wave and interference can be observed in it. But why should I care? Enter the functional threshold.

Functional threshold of the pulse

As the pulse is a representation of an individuals well being and motivation, it has a certain threshold where the productivity and quality of the work is significantly reduced. You’ve all been there, you know that you’re a better employee when not frustrated.  So the individual threshold for the pulse  is the level where the feelings won’t affect your work.

Individual pulse results
The pulse answers for person no 14 in the organization. The dashed line represents the “functional individual threshold”

It’s the same thing for the whole organization. If measuring the pulse of an organization yields a low score and is below the threshold, the organization seizes to function properly. This is also old news and hence majority of leaders follow the pulse score trends quite closely.

Measuring the pulse of an organization
Organizational pulse of an imaginary team of 20 people. The dashed line represents the “functional organization threshold”

But how are these threshold related? The exact level of these thresholds are relatively difficult to determine, but the lower the score for the individuals’ pulse is, the higher the threshold for the organization is. At the same time, the higher the overall organization’s pulse score is, the lower the threshold for the individual is.

For example, if “John” is constantly feeling bad about his work, but the rest of the organization (especially the team closest to him) gives a high pulse score, John is capable in performing through the sheer pull of the overall good feeling of the team.

Whereas “Simon” is feeling really good and scores significantly higher scores than John, his threshold may be significantly higher as the team around him is feeling really bad. So Simon is much more likely to drop below the functional threshold than John as the team’s pulse affects their feeling.

Otsolampi Pulse Matrix
The relation between threshold positions. Click for a larger image.


Why should all of this matter? Everybody knows, that the subjective feelings of individuals affect the efficiency of work. Some of the companies I’ve worked with have only followed the average/summed pulse measurements. Yes, it is an important metric, especially when the trend is considered the more important part. But the functional threshold is something that I’ve never heard anyone talk about. Measuring the pulses of smaller teams and will allow better insight into how the role of the entire organization’s pulse. If individual teams have a low score, it is vital to maintain a high overall score.

Modern digital technology allows for an almost continuous measurement of the pulse and providing feedback regarding it. Now it’s up to you how you use this info

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