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In Lab - Archive

05/11/2015
THE MUSIC AND ENTERPRISE METAPHOR

 

Just one last thought. We don’t play music just to share the same rhythm. This is not the objective of an orchestra. The rhythm, however, is a way to join forces in a creative way. Rhythm provides energy to an organization! Just as a healthy heart consistently pumps blood to every part of our body

Franco Marzo - smart management Coaching & business development

As a general rule,  rhythm is regular. The first rhythm we come into contact with is our mother’s heart. We hear it for the first time while still in her womb. For this reason, a rhythmic sound has the power to appease tension even when we are adults and, always speaking of the heart, any arrhythmia becomes a source of great concern. Furthermore, rhythm represents the “tempo” (BPM) at which a piece of music (and life in general) is developed. The speed is expressed by a value: for example, "Allegro" has 126 beats per minute and is faster than "lento" with only 60. The division of time is expressed by a fraction, for example 3/4 provides an accent (one) followed by two beats (two and three), or One-two-three , One-two-three, typical of the waltz. The 4/4, among the most common in pop music, provides an accent (One) every three beats: One-two-three-four, On-two-three-four. Business tempo is much like that of music: speed and accents, all within known and shared rules.  The “music” of a business is likewise determined by a “tempo”: production, services, sales, income, research, budget, loans etc. There are “fast” companies that change products and services every year ( company phones, computers, financial services) and slower ones that make changes over longer periods of time, say 10-20 years (for instance, think about your car insurance, or new medicines). During the last decade, the average “tempo” of most companies has drastically increased. Throughout the Eighties automobile manufacturers produced a new model every 10 years, while nowadays new innovative models are launched on the market every two/three years. Fashion designers traditionally produced two collections, summer and winter, but at the moment every 15/30 days new models are presented. And the food sector? Fresh products are rotated two or three times every  week! As we can see, every business has its own rhythm that characterizes all its activities as well as working staff. Think of chemists, bars, restaurants and bakeries, where rules about working time and shifts have to be accepted by all employees.

 

Why is it needed? Working together and being prepared!          

A regular pace allows musicians to play together, and the public to participate actively tapping feet or clapping hands. Observing the rhythm (the rules) is all the more important as the number of musicians involved is quite large. A soloist can change the rules at will, but think of an orchestra where everyone follows his own pace ... that would produce a horrific sound.

 

In a company, regularly synchronized processes would prevent loss of time or bottlenecks. For example, in a workshop, "as soon as the car is ready, an invoice is made"; "at the end of each processing cycle the equipment is prepared 'to start the next one"; "if delivery time is 30 days, the material can be ordered once a month"; "when advertising campaigns are about to start, products are already on display in the window." Every good business establishes  the “tempo” at which things have to be done and is prepared to do everything possible to meet the client’s expectations and not cause any disappointments. To help keep the pace, some "accents" can be inserted. Think , for example of soldiers losing their marching pace and the corporal shouts: "MARCH !!!". In a company, these “accents” can be considered as moments of evaluation: cost control, sales performance, inventory turnover, the average collection period, public awareness and meetings, whether weekly, monthly or semi-annually. Whoever is out of rhythm, has an opportunity to find its pace again "before the audience starts to boo or leaves the theater ...".

 

How is it done? Set the rules and stick to them!

First, the rhythm must be simple. In an orchestra, not everyone is a percussionist or a drummer, and also the violin player and the singer must be able to easily follow the rhythm. That’s why a score must be written on paper and given to all the "musicians". The strength of the rhythm is such that it can characterize an entire genre of music. From blues to rock, not to mention reggae, tango and mazurka, their rhythm is what makes them unique, in style and in each song. In sports, rules are not called rhythm, however they still characterize the various games, from football to basketball, from volleyball to Formula 1. Establishing the rules is generally a complex and difficult task. If we think of the most famous rules of the Western culture, the 10 Commandments, we know full well who established those ... Nevertheless we should not be discouraged.

First, it is good to set the ground rules. But for that,  we first need to identify the values we want to be inspired by, or desire to promote on the market. For example, to promote the value of "property" and "family", the 10 Commandments have two very simple rules: "Do not steal" and "honor your father and mother", a prohibition and a requirement that we all can appreciate even without being philosophers. In  case of a song, if “joy” is the feeling I want to express,  I will set  a 126 beats per minute (allegro) “tempo”, on the contrary, for a gloomy, sad song , 40 beats per minute (grave) will be sufficient. Values are important ideas, well worth our best efforts. Every company must have basic reference values accepted by all. If you produce watches, precision is your reference value, safety if you produce aircrafts, quality for those who produce food, safety, again, if you repair cars, along with reliability, timing, cost, delivery time, etc. What are your core values? The things you care about, and in which you believe the most? It is very important to decide which values will make you stand out on the market, two, three, up to four, and then try to define rules to help you instill the same values  into your employees and partners. Let's try with an example. Suppose the added value of a repair workshop is safety. Among the possible rules, we could find

 

1. Test-drive the car for at least 2 km before delivering it to the customer;

2. Quality spare parts only;

3. Check the tire’s air pressure!

 

If the reference value is customer care, then you must think as a mother does:

 

1. the car must be cleaned before being delivered to the customer!

2. Put an air freshener !

3. Put a farewell and safe driving card on the dashboard!

 

After defining the 8/10 ground rules, they must be written down and shared with all employees. At that point all the "musicians" know that, when "out of key", they will be corrected and, if the offence should be consistently repeated, they will be invited to change orchestra. Whoever  does not agree with the basic rules will find it difficult to respect the "accents" or moments of evaluation: deadlines, times, numbers, dates, results, goals, etc.

Just one last thought. We don’t play music just to share the same rhythm. This is not the objective of an orchestra. The rhythm, however, is a way to join forces in a creative way. Rhythm provides energy to an organization! Just as a healthy heart consistently pumps blood to every part of our body.

 

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