My husband and I are big fans of professional cycling. No, that does not mean that I'm a cyclist myself. In fact, I'm not much of a sports person (nor an athlete), but for some reason this (and Irish rugby) have managed to keep my interest over the years.
Actually there are a few reasons. For starters, it's a fast-paced, exciting sport with a lot going on in a beautiful setting. What really appeals to me is that the Tour De France, which occupies my July, is a team-based competition. As any winner would tell you, they couldn't have done it without the team. This is really true. The peloton, the group that makes up most of the riders going en masse, has a distinct culture governed by its own informal norms. Teams both work together and compete against each other (sometimes simultaneously) in the context of this culture and the official rules. Their goal is to help their team leaders win. All this is quite the fix for a culture and organizational dynamics nut like me. I'm fascinated by all that and the race's rich history, good and bad.
Despite all this, I know that not everyone shares this same passion for spectating this sport, so I keep my tweets to a minimum. Still, for the two posts (and their links) below, everyone can learn something and be inspired by the analogies that can be made from cycling. After all, what better way to describe the ups and downs of life than this course from the Tour?
Two cyclists with the same adversity (bike mechanical), and two very different approaches. One was flexible, the other was not. Guess which one came up from behind to win at the end of the day?
Here's something that is both an inspiration and a challenge to you:
This year's Super Bowl was fun to watch, even for me. My spouse called it the best...game...ever! What will live in infamy was that last call made by Pete Carroll, the Seahawk's coach. Everyone was talking about it. Those that gave him a fair shake understood why he made the call he made, but it was likely that other outcomes were not considered possibilities. That came back to bite them big time.
When it comes to purposeful work cultures, environments, and experiences, the design should be considered with not only the context in mind, but also the possible outcomes that might make a difference. You could have the best design in the world, but if the implementation stinks and sustainability can't be achieved with people, then you have a lot of wasted time and lost potential. That is why change management is a key part of the DOWE model and process. An organization's transformation brings the design to life.
That all being said, you can't anticipate for everything. There will be failures. We should live in workplaces (and societies) that allow for failure as learning opportunities to be celebrated. Let's let up on Mr. Carroll here--any one of us could be in the same type of situation, even if we aren't NFL coaches at the Super Bowl. He's a smart man who's strategy didn't work as planned. Haven't we all been there?
2/5/15 Update: Matt Lauer's interview with Pete Carroll happened to be on when I ate my breakfast this morning. Here are some sound bytes I jotted down quickly to illustrate:
"I'm an optimistic person...it's the way I'm wired."
My reaction: Good for you Pete Carroll, and I love that it is what drives your decisions and your philosophy after the fact.
"...never make a call thinking it's gonna go bad." My reaction: Thanks for confirming my suspicion, but I encourage that optimism with a healthy dose of planning for other outcomes. Even if he reaches the same decision again and has the same outcome, he has the right attitude about being positive.
It wasn't a bad call, "it was the worst result of a call" My reaction: This is the piece that I refer to above--sometimes you can't anticipate for everything. And sometimes it is the worst case scenario that happens. The test is what we do thereafter.
Last weekend, we went with some friends to the Hot Air Music Festival in San Francisco. It had been a while since we last enjoyed live music, and it stirred me in more ways than one. I was impressed that the students at the SF Conservatory of Music figured out a way to market their recital in order to draw a larger audience (donations welcome, but the event was free). There was even a logo, fancy website, and t-shirt. College performances are often attended by really supportive friends (in my experience anyway). While small by music festival standards, there was definitely more than just friends enjoying the showcase. Good move, students! As a dormant musician, it gave me a desire to pick up my flute or piano again at the earliest opportunity (both are sadly in storage at the moment). I was awe-struck with the latest developments in the instrumental world. Clearly I had not been keeping up with things. There were some esoteric pieces for sure, but also some interesting setups including some “non-traditional” ensembles (flute, marimba/xylophone, cello, electric guitar) and a piece that incorporated a PowerPoint presentation timed with the music (I wonder if that makes the projector an instrument too?). I especially looked forward to the percussion duet and was not disappointed (pictured above). Such interesting stuff performed by top talent.
Inevitably my thoughts wandered toward seeing all these musical collaborations as an analogy for organizational life. Others have done this as well. Max DePree’s Leadership Jazz: The Essential Elements of a Great Leader and Rosamund & Ben Zander’s The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life quickly come to mind. It’s easy to see how a great conductor can bring together all the parts of an orchestra or band to create beautiful music. Everyone is extremely talented, capable, and fully utilized. The conductor is a leader that guides a group of willing followers. Musicians are recognized with a post-concert bow. An audience is there is give immediate feedback. Digging deeper, a musical ensemble of any kind is a fascinating phenomenon where both individual and the group status are aligned and maintained simultaneously (lots of articles out there on individual vs. group interests). When musicians are playing music, membership within that group is unquestioned in that moment. Where it really counts during a performance, everyone steps up their game and the output is literally music to our ears. We know that such heightened awareness and engagement is impossible to sustain 100% of the time. After all, concerts typically last no more than 3 hours. Imagine what the musical quality and performance would be like on a 24/7 cycle. So how do we recreate the performance of a lifetime in organizations when a great opportunity arises? These are and have to be temporary situations or you can help yourself to a big serving of organizational fatigue. In addition, not everyone in your organization will be directly involved because you have to keep the lights on without business disruption. Perhaps there is a group or a team assembled to meet the challenge, a SWAT team, if you will. Your organization may have your own terminology for it. SWAT is an acronym for Special Weapons and Tactics, which seems so apropos in the competitive business world. How do we pick the right SWAT team? Let’s take a lesson from these student musicians and mix it up. Organizations are apt to choose based on availability, job title, politics and/or the usual suspects. Sometimes that means you get a crappy conductor and sub-par or tired musicians that don’t maximize that opportunity. Mix it up, call in that electric guitar, and focus on getting the best of the best talent for that particular business challenge, regardless of job title. Ensure each team member has an important part to play. Empower them to challenge the status quo and re-invent things like the duet for percussionists. Give them the audience that establishes purpose and feedback they need. Don’t be afraid to change the members in and out of the team. And finally, market the work like a music festival so people pay attention. You’ll be assured an extra special SWAT team experience.
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