I’m rich

I often say that I’m rich. I actually mean it, not just that i have lots of friends or anything.
On my bike this morning i was thinking about ways of defining that, and i thought about “the rich get richer…”
It’s a good measure. If you’re a person who gets a letter every year or two telling you that your house is worth more even though you haven’t even fixed the broken things, your superannuation has grown even though you never think about it, your investments are bigger even though they’re totally-ethical no-gambling-machines… then you’re rich.

I’m rich.

don’t keep your eye on the ball

i was trying to get a few things done today, and not really succeeding, and i heard myself say to myself “keep your eye on the ball”. and i thought “but which ball, i have so many balls in the air.”

mic conway in the sideshow, where he belongs

and a light bulb came on above my head like in the cartoons, and i realised i’ve been using the wrong metaphor. eye on the ball is a football metaphor. lots of guys running around on a big field with one ball. quite helpful if you come from a football playing tradition and if that’s the sort of environment you’re in. but i spend a lot more time with circuses than soccer players, and my challenges are mostly related to there being one of me and lots of balls. more like juggling.
so i have something new to tell myself. “keep your eye off the ball”. when you’re trying to juggle lots of balls, you do it by tossing one in the air then forgetting about it until it comes down again. you never ever look at the balls. you have to time your throw exactly right, give it the perfect trajectory, and trust that it and your hand will be in the same place when it comes down. pay attention to what your hands are doing, not what the balls are doing.
i’m going to try more of that.

working in music

3 steps to success in the music industry

1. realise that you can’t do it for the money.

there really isn’t enough money. find another job, or become independantly wealthy, but don’t plan to pay your mortgage by playing the saxophone or managing a band.
be careful with the money. don’t spend more than you earn, don’t lose track of it (or lose it), be clear with everyone about what you expect to earn and what you actually earn. it’s important, in this hand-to-mouth job, to make sure that everyone knows what to expect and gets paid what they are due.
there are lots of benefits – fantastic people and travel and parties and things you can’t buy with money. but there isn’t much money.
if you don’t love the music you’re playing (or mixing, or supporting), find a job that will pay you by the hour.

2. be organised.

Super organised. most bands can walk on stage with an instrument in their hand and play for an hour. but a great performance takes an hour of sound check, a change of clothes, a set list, instruments in tune, and for the whole night to run on time so that the audience doesn’t get bored and the last band gets to play their full set.  For the music to start and finish when the audience expects it to may have taken days of work by a dozen people.
and to support all of that, a rehearsal and a good looking merch desk and spare leads and batteries and a meal and a drink and a good nights’ sleep.
it takes a big team to put on a great night of music – a three band bill could include 15 musicians, 2 or more sound/tech supports, a couple of managers, people to run the door and the merch. you could easily be sharing $500 worth of door takings between 20 people.

3. love the music

the art is the only thing. everything has to serve the song. and if you don’t love the song, you’ll end up worrying more about something else – the food or the transport or the colour of the bass players shirt – and the music will suffer.
if i’m working with a band, i have to want to see them 200 times. because how am i going to convince 200 people to come to the show if it don’t like it that much myself. and actually, i probably will see the band 200 times.

 

The daily standup

Here’s a little something I wrote for the people I work with, after becoming frustrated with their misuse of the word “Scrum” to describe what were actually long boring time-wasting chats about whatever came to mind…

Each team within the company should have a “huddle” or “standup” meeting every day.

Here’s a great article with some case studies : www.inc.com/magazine/20071101/the-art-of-the-huddle.html

And here’s a thorough discussion of the principles of a good standup : martinfowler.com/articles/itsNotJustStandingUp.html

The purpose of this fast meeting is to provide a context for the day – to give everyone a chance to take each other’s pulse, and check the health of your projects.  To know who has time, who is too busy, who is frustrated, who has momentum – and to be accountable to each other for our daily goals.  You can quickly flag issues for discussion in smaller groups, or which might require escalation or help from another team.  Teams that huddle daily find they interrupt each other less the rest of the day because there’s a fixed time when everyone knows they’ll have everyone else’s attention. Meeting daily also clears up issues that otherwise linger to clog up project meetings.  The frequency, need for follow-up conversations and short structure result in a higher rate of knowledge transfer – a much more active intention than the typical status meeting.

The meeting should give energy, not take it. Energy comes from instilling a sense of purpose and a clear understanding what needs to be done to achieve it.

 

Agenda:

  • What have you achieved since yesterday?  Where do you have momentum, what good news can you share.
  • What will you do today?  What’s on your radar, what might you need help with.
  • What’s your biggest bottle neck or roadblock?  Where are you frustrated, who can help you.

Principles:

  • Start on time, every time. Try making the start time a particular minute, like 9:13
  • All team members should participate. If China/Malaysia staff can be included by conference call, then good!  Otherwise they should have their own standup and the two parts of the team should report to each other through a mash page or email.
  • You’re not reporting to the team leader, you’re reporting to each other.
  • Keep the meeting under 15 minutes. This is not a place for telling stories or solving problems.  Try setting a 3-minute countdown timer and restart it for each person.
  • No interruptions, no discussions. If two people start discussing one roadblock, they’re probably wasting three people’s time)

 

If your meeting is not daily and not short, just call it a meeting.   A weekly hour-or-more discussion of the current projects and timelines and issues is not a standup, and should probably have an agenda and a leader and a formal agenda to keep it from becoming an energy-sapping waste of time.

And please, don’t call it a Scrum (Scum implies Sprints and the whole Agile framework, and if we keep using this term we’ll trick ourselves and our clients into thinking we’re an Agile company, which we’re not)