“They’ve done studies and the least stressful job in the world is a conductor of an orchestra – for exactly the same reasons that you have outlined – complete control. Now imagine if you could embody that same trust in all employees to provide them with their own control over their roles? That’s what I believe good process does – it’s a pity it’s so rare.”
In People Centric Process Management, a book I co-authored with Mark McGregor the opening chapter starts with a great story of an orchestra which highlights perfectly the stress of poor process.
Maybe there is a strong correlation between stress and control. Giving people the tools to do the job and the autonomy to get on with it is the route to happy employees. So Nimbus Control is on the right track with the idea of delegated ownership and widespread access… and it has the correct name.
The lights dim, the audience quietens in response – and you step towards the rostrum. It was an extraordinary honor for you, Richard James, an amateur conductor, ‘mere’ business CEO, to be invited to do a cameo with the Vienna Philharmonic.
It was a simple piece of course, an early Mozart piano concerto, featuring a young Chinese pianist. But snow at O’Hare had cancelled two days of flights – so there had been no time for any rehearsals at all. Gulp – you lift the white baton to gather the orchestra. It was now or never. Hell, this was more nerve-wracking than any investor presentation.
But, really, what could go wrong? You knew the piece intimately. You had even conducted it before. And the Vienna Philharmonic musicians were among the world’s finest. So relax and enjoy.
It was the second bar when you realized something was awry. The orchestra was going faster than you’d ever imagined.
It came crashing into your head that they were using the revised October 1782 score, while you had the original September 1781 score in front of you. Never mind – maybe you could still get through this.
The orchestra built raggedly towards the entry of the soloist, their eyes looking at you in increasing bewilderment, wondering why your arms were off-beat.
You turned to introduce the pianist. She played from memory of course. It was half a bar later that you realized that she was performing Mozart’s later revision of this work – his January 1783 score, which was much the same, except for the revised timpani line.
The music careered along, jumping and spluttering like a car with water in the tank. Maybe it was OK for an amateur – you might just make it to the end.
But not much can survive when the timpanist is confused. The cacophony grew. Only true grit could save the day. You waved and pummeled the air, and pulled them through into the final bar – and silence.
First one clap, then another, then spreading around the hall – until finally tumultuous applause. You bowed, amazed, and left the podium.
In the wings, you overheard a radio presenter gushing into his microphone: ‘…a stunning new interpretation of Mozart in the style of Philip Glass …’
A miraculous survival – again. But as you headed back for a final bow – and definitely no encore – your thoughts turned inexplicably to work.
How well are your teams performing? Is it that talented heroics are required because everyone has a slightly different or no view of the playbook? How much more profitable could your company be if their skills were harnessed and directed?
Didn’t you just put that process improvement project on the backburner? Wasn’t it aimed at getting consistent processes and documents delivered real-time to all staff.
Hey, you might even get the Europeans onto the same page, at last.