I’ve played the drums since a teenager. It was a saviour for me and opened my mind to so many great aspects of creativity, collaboration and people passion. I still play today as part of my overall physical and mental health routine. Nothing quite like making a noise and holding a beat to a sweat!
I stumbled across this article and read it with great enthusiasm as you’d imagine.
It got me thinking about how I have used my experiences in drumming, patterns, structures and creativity to overcome challenges personally and professionally. How I go about organising competing tasks or managing tight deadlines. A solid backbeat and ability to recall structures and patterns managing the interruptions and distraction of obstacles, but always back to the beat.
I love the challenge of making things better for all. Sometimes competing and conflicting but that is what makes life interesting at the best and worst of times. It can be a scary place but exhilarating. Like an intricate beat with a dynamic drum fill at the apex of the song with a complex arrangement, and getting the pace and timing just right feels so rewarding. Reading the article enlighten me to this.
Now the devil is the detail – tackle that full on and get organised – get intimate knowledge of it – as that is where we find clarity and the pace of the beat. Drumming and my passion for precision, to hear something in different ways and work the pattern (beat) differently but with an interesting rhythm has always been where I push myself.
Unbeknown to me I have been applying my drummers perspective to so many challenges in my business career without understanding why I take the approach I do. Keep an open mind, study the detail, find the beat, play the song, not the drums.
Where do you draw your skills to fight the devil that is the detail? What other aspects of your life has subconsciously crept into your professional habits?
We all strive to do the very best we can to develop deep capability in our chosen professions. We also sometimes have to dig deep to keep the motivation and belief that our contribution is valued and our legacy provides long term sustainable contribution to our chosen discipline.
We are also told to tell stories as part of any engagement; selling, describing, explaining . . . .. consulting!
I recently had the good fortune to work with someone who in spite of his age and in spite of circumstance (business model) still shows real joy and fun in what he does. He was able to deliver wisdom, advice and stories of sheer joy of his work and accomplishments.
A confession. I was so chuffed to be asked to do this and “we” had absolutely no rehearsal prior and never played together. It was the first time I used that kit in about 5 years! But it was music to my ears.
Listen to him tell stories. Song starts about 5.50 in. Enjoy my walk on the wild side!
But what did this teach me? A team of professionals (in this instance semi-pro in my case) that all understood the part they played in the execution; their role, their responsibility, their contribution and collaboration and support all danced (played) to the same tune and pulled off an immediate and fun accomplishment. At no point did any of us doubt that the other wouldn’t do their job, deliver their part to time and beat and be there for the other.
Why isn’t work more like this more of the time? Why is it that we develop skills that are then compromised by “process” or “policies” or worse – politics and power play! Turning out a horrible tune!
If you don’t know who Herbie Flowers is check out this link http://www.herbieflowers.com/ and just think of Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side and David Bowie Space Oddity, to name a few . . .
Herbie’s stories made me reflect on how I view my career. My contribution, my legacy and what it is that keeps me motivated irrespective of the challenges and demands that our modern work cadence places upon us. Is it creating beautiful music or wonderful stories!
So I hope you enjoy this and many thanks to Nik for providing me the opportunity to listen, learn and revisit my drumming skills for such an iconic and wonderful piece of music under the instruction of a one of the world’s greatest bass player ever. Thanks Herbie.
The thing is everyone in the room is a solutions architect. But not one a pop star! There’s tension and their pain and emotional investment of a life time career is exposed and raw. There is great endeavours and knowledge experts that would score highly in Master Mind for their chosen subject, and a fascinating array of professional office politicking. But not one harmonious tune.
My role gives me great insight into many situations, sectors and cultures where change and design clash constantly and where ownership and authority dance to the tune of a different song to that which they think is playing. They need to change tune but more on that later.
I see this clash more and more as enterprises make that move from old platform to Cloud and the realisation that standardisation demands a new song that only a shared platform can sing.
In the room they are all looking for a solution; they are all trapped in a decision of the past and now embroiled in the challenge of change. What often astounds me are the players in the room, the leadership of risk taking and the real issue; “our business model is no longer fit for purpose and our operating practice broken!”
Large amounts of operational expense are maintained in maintaining the modus operandi. Large capital expense is questioned and fought for to establish “betterment” against the backdrop of legacy. This is modern enterprise business in a world of unpredictable change and overpowering competition of new business models of “subscription”.
The intent of all in the room is to do the right thing. The opinion of what is “right” is the challenge of culture, belief, experience and legacy at odds with each other.
When I am sitting in the room and layer after layer of conversation, deviation and ultimate indecision fills the air with noise and awkward body language, indifference, and/or dogma I can’t help having the tune “Complicated” pop into my head. You’re singing the chorus now aren’t you?
Chill out, what you yellin’ for?, Lay back, it’s all been done before , And if you could only let it be, You will see . . . .
I want these companies to go back to the beginning and try to find the true reason why the company and its product became. What drove it to success? Where is the value? What is the differentiator? Cling on to these and then ask:
Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated
You fall and you crawl and you break
And you take what you get and you turn it into honesty
You promised me I’m never gonna find you fake it
No no no
If you fancy a sing alone try this!
Must thank Avril Lavigne fo adding to my corporate change wisdom and therophy.
Often I get a little vexed when travelling in a taxi and having to look at the head rest of the chair in front. It obscures my forward vision and obstructs my line of direction. And then on an aeroplane with only one view even worse!!!
With the long traffic congested journey to the airport frustrating me for the lack of doing anything productive eats in. Really I’m an okay traveller but . . .
When I discovered the dashboard for my membership with British Airways it further made me consider the impact business travel has on productivity and wasted time. But that’s often our 21st century busy life. And we all have to arrive somewhere, somehow.
On a particular journey I decided to ignore the big black seat in front with the tall head rest blocking the view and looked out of the side windows. It got me thinking. Trying to move forward and make progress whilst managing the obstacles of company, customer politics, policy procedure and legalities and work life balance can often bring to the surface the feelings of frustration, unproductive, time wasted and no clear line of sight.
Fundamentally we drive our business objectives and how we achieve our personal or professional goals interlink with though around us through as a shared journey of which some get the front seat and other peer over the shoulders.
However, it occurred to me that maybe a sideway glance, a look left or right may actual unearth opportunities that move all forward via an alternative route. It also speaks to the need to collaborate and stay in tune with the side view of your career and/or corporate activities.
Business will continue to change and challenge in 2015 and with these will produce opportunities which were previously not visible in a straight line of direction of the journey of yester year.
Yes it can be advantageous to sit in the front seat and see the road ahead but a sideways glance can reveal a more interesting landscape.
So my 2015 starting point is to keep sideways view of all the activities that may contribute to the shared success, achievements and wellbeing of colleague, family and friends. Have a great and adventurous journey through 2015 one and all.
It was always going to be a challenging project. The end users had the attention span of a gnat. The delivery was to change their way of working significantly. We knew we were looking at an uphill battle of acceptance, agreement and adoption. But it was a transformational project and had benefits beyond the front line use (CRM).
My key sponsor knew how to play this landscape and knew how to navigate the culture and habitat of the business. As such he drove an extremely hard line on the project team and maintained a level of focus and engagement that ensured that we did the “right things”, not always “did things right”.
As the project manager this approach often conflicted with the fundamental way minds work in an engineering project discipline. It clearly did not sit well with the project team. “Where is the best practice?” rang in each team meeting, “this doesn’t work with the deliver dependencies in the plan!” Somehow we needed to find common ground and understanding with the business and agreed demarcation of decision making and domain respect.
I was accountable for the delivery of the solution. It had to meet the business needs but also needed to be sustainable and workable across the wider solutions and process platforms. It also must protect the long term ROI by the manner in which we engineered the solutions for several international areas of the business.
Some environments can tolerated the “do the right thing” v’s “doing things right” approach and other will push back. The birth of Agile PM as an example has been bastardised from it pure efficiency gains into a delivery expectation paradigm which is wrong, wrong, wrong. It places business, projects and outcomes at risk by setting expectation that do not align to a design and puts avoidable pressure on all sides of the project. Some things we build need foundations; it isn’t just painting and decorating!
However, in this instance my sponsor had the positioning bang on and influenced the way I priorities and multitasked the project into what would “curry” favour with key stakeholders, answers their concerns and keep the project from by flushed down the loo! The key was to make an early deliverable to the end user communities and make an immediate and important win whilst building solid reputation and greater tolerance of the project for doing thing right going forward.
I must confess, at the beginning of this journey this approach created some degree of challenge for me and great anxiety for the team. It went against all my experience and best practice as a PM. I was tasked with managing a delivery whilst my sponsor was tasked with delivering an outcome. I have since come to realise that these in essence are one and the same.
So over too many drinks one night this miss-alignment resulted in a heated debate (constructive and open) between us. My sponsor resolved it by setting me a test. This proved his point and influenced how I would assess delivery forevermore.
“You have been out all night drinking copious amounts of beer. You’re hungry and in desperate need of a toilet. You grab a microwave curry on the way back to your flat. Keys in the door into the hallway and you see that you have some messages on your answerphone (those were the days). So you’re hungry, desperate for the toilet and there are messages waiting for you. What do you do first?”
I’ll leave you to work out what is the correct answer and please let me know by leaving your comment below,
Suffice to say this approach has continued to influence my thoughts and approach in engagements and project management. Where there is a clear need for “quick wins” that conflicts with “best practice” it is important to find a way forward that allows leveraging greater stakeholder tolerance of the wider delivery and a more pragmatic direct focus on doing the “right things” by the team in order to do things right.
As a leader of the project team my task is to gain buy-in from all parties to identifying why a “doing the right thing” by your business stakeholders is the first deliver that any project needs to make.
I once participated in a large team completion to develop a vision of a future concept soon to be a reality for most businesses (going Social). It was intense, 14 teams of 7 and 4 nights to develop a vision to capture the imagination whilst completing mandatory boot camp exercises and training sessions during the day.
It was a team effort but I was convinced that the tag line “The Art of the Possible” that I suggested for the future state resonated with the judges and moved our presentation into the winning position. It was fun, it was reality TV at its worst in a professional working space. And it was confirmation of a business practice of believing its own bullshit beyond an acceptable level IMHO. Apologies if the profanity offends.
What works and what pleases by design? Sadly I am writing this whilst on holiday in the lovely sunshine looking out on some of Mother Nature’s best, which speaks volume for the art of the possible but by design. It is that which inspired this blog post.
I like the resort and the hotel isn’t half bad, no complaints really it is just that after 5 days and as a closet engineer (my grandfather was a specialist in weights and measures making top secret instrument in WW2) I can’t help looking at some areas and services and thinking “by design really?”
What do I mean by that? Well it doing things on purpose, because it was well thought out, it had been considered, it is stress tested, it has been consulted, and it is thoughtful and sympathetic to those who will use it. It worked, it works. It delivers a good satisfying experience.
These are important key success identifies for anything – product, solution, user adoption, RoI, sustainability, usability and on and on . . . .
Some of the resort blends with the wonders of the natural world around or delivers the experience through the environment one expects. Whereas some part of the resort was missing the target enough to make you feel “dis-satisfied”; the exposed poorly finished concrete onto the beach, the level of the buildings in relation to each other or horizon, the closed stairway into the grand wide open spaces . . . . It just hadn’t been thought out, designed.
So how does this relate to the world I experience as a cloud solution practitioner? Cloud computing and the click not code philosophy propels the belief of agility and speed as a huge benefit. And it is.
But by design the principle of deep thought, consideration and that devil’s detail is what will provide the ROI ultimately in any cloud investment. So no change there from the last 30 years of computing I hear you shout.
Well yes frankly. By design and the pain, investment, deliberation, hard slog, stakeholder managements, engagement consideration of end-users, and the need to understand the end operating environment are all required as essential to the art of the possible. The possible but by design.
So I end this blog whilst looking at the luscious landscape and coast line, the blue sky blending into the green of the forest covered hill tops and the sea lapping at the shore. I have to say by design over the art of the possible gets my vote, even if that design takes time to create the fit for purpose experience that delivers the satisfaction of the art possibility.
Awhile ago I was asked this question as part of a coaching session “Can you think of a specific time you have been influenced to change your mind and how?”
It took awhile to think about my response and with my smartphone in hand and the world of social media and apps readily and persistently available I kept pressing myself to think of a Cloud/Social Media example. You see, so much is given to this great wonderful, and it is wonderful, new frontier of connections and influence that one automatically relates ones life to this. That, or I need to get a life! I have had some great experiences and influences through the widen reach of social media but these have often been from a one-way learning view point. I am sure this will change as the world and our working life becomes increasingly dependent on who we can reach and where we can cultivate influence and advice. But as it stands for me it was people engagement that influenced me most.
I put down my smartphone, logged out of the various social media sites and recalled the moment. In an attempt to introduce customer segmentation to an institutionalised trade organisation it was key to not only provide the facts (statics) but also embrace the emotional decision making process of the board that would sanction its adoption.
This board was made up of the very people who would be impacted by a segmented engagement with the institution – turkey voting for Christmas scenario. There were clear power pockets among this group with influence that extended beyond the institution and into trade bodies and key customers. This could impact the outcome I was looking to achieve. Having done my analytical homework, proven the 80/20 rule and showed how cross subsidisation was supporting the masses of under contributors as the driver for improved customer retention I was set to deliver what I felt could only be a fait accompli. After all the facts speak for themselves!
A senior member of the committee agreeing with the segmentation strategy took me to one side; “You need to get the board to own the decision and then you need to support their decision through your analysis to validate it. Without this you will be seen as challenging rather than supporting the organisation.” This was a good point and a key consideration in what was a political and emotional arena. It led to a change in tactic and a more refined stakeholder management approach. Perversely I segmented the stakeholders and looked at each through the lens of “Voice and Sphere of Influence Profile”. This shaped how I would approach each member of the board and how to gauge their position on the strategy
The advice given and my experience in taking heed influenced my approach. I worked more one-to-one with board members, especially those that were identified as carrying the weight to see the recommendation through or best placed to champion the strategy to the very community it would impact. It is people that make decisions on strategy not statistic and this experience changed how I approached such matters going forward.
It is also, we hope, people at the end of the posts, feeds and links. But it isn’t the same as a hand on your shoulder and a quiet, yet influential word in your ear.