Sunday, November 16, 2008

You Can Tune a Piano but You Can't Tuna Fish

Those of us who spent a lot of time in locker rooms and team huddles in sports know a little about the dynamics of a team.  Business people have some clue about what makes a great environmental mixture of people.  But no one understands the dynamics of bringing people together for a common outcome better than musicians.  

I've always admired the role of an orchestra conductor, especially those who lead large symphonies.  Whether you lead large organizations of people or simply interact with peers, customers, and managers there are few skills as important as the harmonious interaction with others.  I'm not a psychologist and certainly not an expert on people.  One thing I have observed and been rewarded for in my career (and personal life), however, has been the recongition of how my actions affect those around me.

Consider the issues that one simple instrument out of tune would cause in a 100 piece orchestra.  Or how about the kettle drum (better yet, the gong) player spacing off and missing a queue by a couple of seconds.  With professionals, the room for error is miniscule.  What drives the best performers to this level of precision?  Talent?  Yes, but more so dedication to their craft.  Practice builds an inner ear.  Practice builds an internal rythm and sense of symponic harmony.  Practice may not make perfect but it does make permanent.  How you practice is how you perform.  

Whatever you do is very similar to the musician and even to the conductor.  Your craft requires countless hours of learning, practice, and working with others.  The difference between harmony and discord is the ability to keep more than one thing in sync with another.  Life has its allegro and andante.  Each requires a different pace and mentality.  Go with the right pace at the appropriate time.  You will have times it's important to crescendo and times that call for diminuendo.  Volume levels are not right or wrong.  They are appropriate in the right parts of the piece you're playing.  

Listen to others.  Watch the conductor.  Learn from the best.  The difference between chaos and well orchestrated performance is the ability for a leader to bring everyone together and the willingnesss for the players to dedicate themselves and submit thier own ego to the cause of createing something greater than they could ever produce on thier own.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mu, F sub N, and Your Life

The words "coefficient of static friction" are enough to make even the most nerdy reader slip into a coma.  It's like starting a comedy routine with an obituary.  But hang in there, grab a tasty beverage and come along for the ride, today's post is a short one.

Reach way back to, I don't remember what class it was.  But somewhere about high school it used to be taught that the amount of energy to get an object moving was exponentially more than it took to keep it moving once it started.  Let's say you're Spencer Johnson's proverbial mouse (Who Moved My Cheese).  You have a higher intellect than your peers so you use a periscope to spot the new location of the cheese, blast those pesky walls down with a little plastic explosive and create a clear path between your new mouse-house and the perfect piece of cheese.  The only rope you find is elastic so you tie it around the very heavy cheeese, around your waist, and you start to pull.  As the little mouse sweat starts to bead and your mouse muscles start to burn you stretch the elastic almost to its limit.  Suddenly the cheese starts to slowly move.  You broke through the static friction and and are now dealing with a much smaller force; kinetic friction.

What does any of this have to do with success, especially in business?  Consider the amount of energy it takes to get a thing moving, to get it going.  If you're not ready it will break you.  You'll lighten up, lose your grip, or buckle under.  Remember that elastic rope.  What happens next?  Yep, you go zipping back, SPLAT, right into the cheese.  Taking the extra steps, small as they may be, and keeping the pressure focused ahead will eventually move the thing forward.  Don't give up too soon and don't underestimate the amount of energy it takes to get things moving.

Once things are moving a common mistake is to turn around and look at your progress.  How cool; that thing is moving along nicely now!  Remember the elastic.  SMACK, it'll plow you over if you've created enough momentum.  Don't stop in its path.  Keep the pressure on and keep it moving.  There will come a time to back off and gradually engage in the eating process.  Not now.  When the path looks rough ahead, it's time to accelerate.  Keep the big mo working for you and don't forget the consequences of stopping.  Fighting the ups and downs of kinetic friction beats the challenge of overcoming static friction again any day.

Oh, and one more thing.  No whining with the movement of the cheese.  Wine goes well with cheese.  Whine goes well with nothing.