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Scrum Reminders From Noah’s Solo Ensemble Performance

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Apr 21, 2016

Saturday my son Noah performed his Double Bass solo at the Iowa state solo ensemble.

Performing at solo ensemble can be an emotional and mental challenge.

One of my customers, Fred Schiff from All County Music, noted how solo ensemble is performed in a very sterile environment (school classroom) with anywhere from 3 to 20 more observers.  Some students don’t wish to have anyone in the room with them.  It may be nerScrum_-The_Art_of_Doing_Twice_the_Work_in_Half_the_Time_by_Jeff_Sutherland_.jpgvousness, or fear of criticism which they feel will increase their anxiety diminishing their concentration on their performance.  Despite reminding students you are there to encourage, some simply don’t want their parents, teachers, or friends in the room when they perform.  Fortunately my son Noah isn’t one of those students.

Noah’s performance and results brought to mind several reminders of the key characteristics of the book I’ve been detailing in my blogs Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.

If you’re a lover of music please enjoy his short five minute performance.

I'm very proud of Noah, particularly in light of the challenges he has faced over the past couple of years.  (Two) years ago, he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and last year, his mother asked for a divorce and subsequently moved to Florida.  Just nine days after she left, an event occurred that would severely test Noah and me.  Noah in particular went through a very difficult time, and unfortunately I wasn't as close to him as I should have been.  It was an extreme challenge for him to navigate.

I was in the throes of disappointment, discouragement and depression. The love, dreams I’d meditated on to miraculously to heal my Acute Myeloid Leukemia suddenly disappeared when Michelle left!  I struggled to juggle all my new responsibilities: Cleaning, laundry, planning and cooking meals, plus making sure Noah had all his RA medication. Simple communication frequently proved difficult. 

Noah reluctantly attended several meetings with my minister to help us communicate our feelings.  It slowly helped us to resolve our communication conflicts. Despite all this, Noah is resilient and ebullient in his quest to learn and accomplish.  His genius knows no bounds, particular where he is passionate.  Music, especially playing at a high level, is and perhaps always will be his passion!

The Will to Prepare To Win

Noah began preparing for his Solo Ensemble performance in November.  The music his private lesson instructor, John Hall and he agreed upon, was arduous. John pointed out to me on Saturday that the music was college level.  It’s the type selection he suggested is often required as an audition for professional European orchestras.

Noah enjoys a challenge. It didn’t take long for Noah to master the selection.  It’s this kind of relentless purpose he applies to any trial. 

The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win.  In this case Noah’s performance was assured to be a winner, long before Saturday.  As noted in Success Path – Strategic Discipline, Commitment & Vision, and in Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, success in any endeavor requires persistence and an extraordinary level of discipline.  Whether it’s playing the bass or studying, Noah consistently displays fervor for both. Unlike his father who too frequently refused to study in high school, Noah invests time at home and with his friends studying for exams and daily work.

In Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, he describes the time required to begin the Scrum process.  In Chapter Six, Plan Reality, Not Fantasy, Sutherland describes how Medco hired Sutherland six months after promising Wall Street (December of 2006) how his company would get customers to switch to getting their prescriptions by mail with a bold idea. The only problem was that six months later they discovered it would require a year beyond his prediction to achieve it.  Wall Street doesn’t look favorably on a company’s failure to forecast accurately.  It’s one reason we remind our customers that the two most important characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to predict and delegate.

Of course the issue is human beings are terrible at predicting.  It’s a problem we addressed in Leadership – Are You Chasing Waterfalls?  Scrum is an effective tool for not only executing more proficiently, but also in forecasting work completion.  We’ll explore this more in a future blog.

When Sutherland arrived at the Medco just before Christmas the company was deadlocked.  They spent hours reviewing the stack of plans, at least two feet tall, which the leaders had signed off on yet no one had actually read.  The first step in Scrum is to identify the backlog, then estimate how long it will take to complete it.

In Noah’s case the first step was to identify the piece of music he would play.  For John Hall and Noah it was an intricate work that required all of his 3x Iowa All State skills to navigate and champion.  John and Noah started in November because they recognized the enormous challenge it presented and the required time investment it would necessitate.


Perhaps Noah’s judge is reading Scrum or has read Aubrey Daniel’s Bringing Out the Best in People.  Whatever the case this was the first time in my attending Noah’s solo ensemble performance that a judge give him immediate positive feedback. 
Please watch the two minute video of the judge’s comments on Noah’s performance.

Whether it’s a project, initiative or priority, frequently the feedback necessary to correct or redirect efforts in our businesses doesn’t get to the right people until it’s too late to fix, or after time and energy is wasted pursuing a path that will fail to produce the right outcome.

In Scrum, Sprints are designed to give immediate feedback. Demos are presented to share the progress completed that is expected to be deliverable to the customer.  In Strategic Discipline, weekly meetings update the progress toward company and leadership team members success criteria. This informs the group whether the priority is on track or not.   The wrong time to discover a priority or initiative is off the track and can’t be completed or achieved is when it’s too late!

Regarding Noah’s performance, my oldest son Dan observed, “I agree with the idea of what the judge said, though.. many times at solo & ensemble competitions, there's an unease when the performer isn't entirely sure of themselves -- the performance becomes less of a true performance and more of a test of their ability to hit the notes, overcome nerves, etc.  At Noah's level, though, he's able to actually perform the piece and make it enjoyable for everyone in the room, which actually makes the judge's job a lot harder, because they can't just listen and enjoy it as much as they would like to, they have to find things to critique.  So, well done on Noah's part for making that judge earn her pay for the day!”

If you’re a manager, team or department leader, are you earning your pay by providing feedback and insight to your people to ensure they achieve the results you expect?  If you don’t follow a process like Scrum or Strategic Discipline with its weekly meetings to check in, you are most likely failing at one of the two most important characteristics of leadership – prediction.

When is the best time to fix a problem?  We’ll look at the cost of not doing it at the right time and several examples next blog.

Topics: Employee Feedback, Strategic Discipline, Aubrey Daniels, Scrum

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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