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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Lesson from Rock

So my band played a reasonable gig on the weekend, but we struggled in one main area. We have a couple of "core" songs that we have been playing forever - and we feel like we know them really, really well, but on Saturday night they completely bombed making us sound like bigger amateurs than we already are! The thing was that we also played some completely new songs - songs that we'd never played in public before and those ones went over really well - like we'd been playing them for years.

It's not like the "core" songs are really hard, they're not, it's not like we don't practice them, we do, it's not like we don't enjoy playing them, we do - It's more about the level of attention and concentration that we apply to them. When it gets close to midnight on a long Saturday it's really easy to mentally relax when we get to one of the "core" songs that we feel like we know backwards. The result is that we get lost in the song - was that the first chorus or the second? Is the bridge now, or next time? What note does that riff start on?

The other thing that becomes really evident is how reliant on each other we really are (although nobody cares to admit it). A small miss-placed drum fill, guitar lick or vocal ad-libbed in a live situation can really throw out the rest of the guys in the band - did that mean that he thinks we've already finished the bridge when we only just started? It doesn't take much to send the other guys off on a completely different course - even with the best of intentions.

Last week the same thing happened in the office (my day job of course - Beermogul doesn't have an office!). We execute complex software releases, unusual developments, subtle product enhancements, manage external contractors and negotiate large commercial agreements on a regular basis, but we came completely unstuck sending out a simple email announcement to our customers - a "core" activity that we've done a thousand times, one that is incredibly simple. We mentally relaxed on the simple task and completely bombed!

In an effort to increase our productivity after a recent pep-talk the manager involved played things a little different - "We need to do things fast if we're going to survive in this commercial world". By turning up the heat he hoped to drive his team a little faster, but things went off the rails with the wrong communication going out to the wrong group of recipients. A simple mistake but a painful one.

The lesson? Hmmm, pretty obvious I guess - concentrate on the "core"' activities, and don't let yourself mentally relax just because the job is a simple one because that doesn't mean it's not important.

Oh, and don't drink too many beers before you go on stage! (I knew I'd get a Beermogul link in somewhere.)